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Williams wins mother of all quarters to edge closer to 24th grand slam title

Serena Williams is once again within touching distance of equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles after recovering from a set and a break down to defeat fellow mum Svetana Pironkova on Arthur Ashe.

  • US Open quarter-final, women’s singles

  • Serena Williams d. Pironkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

  • Key stats: Serena Williams was again lethal on serve, nailing 16 aces and backing it up with 31 winners. With that firepower, no opponent is safe.
  • You will also learn: In winning, Serena Williams will face yet another mother in the semi-finals in long-term rival Victoria Azarenka.
  • Why you should read this story: Because it’s Serena, of course! Can she go all the way and finally break the record?

Tsvetana Pironkova’s is as remarkable a story as you will hear, quitting the game three years ago to start a family, this her first tournament back. But after doing brilliantly to make it this far in the tournament, she ran out of steam after a brilliant opening set, losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Serena Williams.

“It just shows me how tough mums are!” said Serena after her hard-fought win. “Whenever you can birth a baby, honestly you can do anything and I think we saw that with Tsvetana today, she played unbelievable.

“I couldn’t even do that. I could barely win a match when I came back, so she’s incredible. Her baby has to be younger than mine. So you play a match, you go home and you’re still changing diapers, you know it’s like a double life. It’s really surreal.”

The Bulgarian’s incredible run has seen her dispose of Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in the second round, before another straight-sets victory over Donna Vekic and a more testing three-setter against Alize Cornet followed.

And it was Pironkova who put on all the early pressure, breaking Williams in the fifth game of the opening set, swinging as freely as a person without a care in the world and no pressure on her shoulders. In contrast, Williams looked tired and flustered early on as the Bulgarian consolidated her break.

Serena hangs tough

Williams had won her last ten US Open quarter-finals, a quite remarkable record. And forever the competitor, it was one that she was in no mood to relinquish, staving off two set points on her own serve.

But it was the Bulgarian who took the opener against many predictions, a clean backhand winner sealing the opening set in exactly 40 minutes. And she continued in exactly the same vein at the start of the second slicing and dicing to break in the opener.

Anyone who writes off Williams is foolish indeed, and the American broke straight back at the start of the second and had points for a further break before the second set settled into an intriguing battle of wills. And it was the former champ who held her focus the better to break again at 4-3 after a 26-shot epic rally before serving it out with three successive aces to level.


Into the third, and judging by the topsy-turvy nature of the previous sets, this was still anyone’s match to call. And despite Pironkova making her opponent do all the early running, the Williams fitness stood up to the test and she broke early to establish a foothold. The American had been a set and a break down against Maria Sakkari in the previous round but found a way, as she always does.

“I was definitely feeling it in my legs and for whatever reason an hour in I get more energy, so I guess that’s a good thing,” added Williams. “I don’t really get tired, but in the beginning, I was a little fatigued for whatever reason, so obviously I can’t do that if I want to keep winning, so I will try to figure that out. In play again tomorrow, so the good news is I’m used to playing back-to-back, to back, to back to back! So in a way I’m used to it but at the same time I need to figure out how to start a bit faster.”

And she will again need to be at her very best in the semi-final against Victoria Azarenka and then, if she triumphs, what price another final against Naomi Osaka? That is surely a match everyone would love to see…

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