Serena Williams has been bundled out at the semi-final stage at Flushing Meadows for the second year in a row.
Last year it was Roberta Vinci who stunned the American at the penultimate stage of the US Open. This time, it was tall Czech player Karolina Pliskova who caused the boilover, 6-2 7-6.
Pliskova will play Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final. Kerber beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-3 and is the new No.1 player in the world, ending Serena’s record equalling 186-week reign at the top. This reverse for Serena means she is equal with Steffi Graf for most grand slams in the Open era and also most consecutive weeks spent at No.1.
Serena committed 31 unforced errors and six double faults, including two in the crucial second set tie-break – one of which was on match point. She would later blame her poor performance on a knee injury.
Pliskova dominated with her serve, one of the few players that can match it with Serena. She is the top ace-getter on the WTA and, at 186cm, is the second-tallest player in top 100 after Maria Sharapova. She used that wingspan to her advantage to play a fabulous return game to break for 3-1. Serena then handed her the next break with a flurry of unforced errors. Pliskova closed out the set winning 10 of the final 11 points.
Pliskova, who survived match point in beating Venus Williams two rounds ago, again broke for 3-2 in the second set. But this time, Serena broke back to love immediately. Both players held serve until the tiebreak. Serena won a crucial point at 3-3 when she defended with an amazing lob before drilling a backhand down the line.
The New York crowd roared.
But then Serena’s famous serve let her down, committing two double faults to allow Pliskova to be the first Czech woman into a US Open final since Helena Sukova in 1993. She said she couldn’t believe what she had accomplished.
In the press conference afterward, Serena said she was carrying an injury.
“Yeah, I have been having some serious left knee problems,” Williams lamented.
“I wasn’t tired. Fatigue had absolutely nothing to do with it. I wasn’t able to move the way I wanted to move.
“When you’re injured, you’re thinking of other things when you should be just playing and thinking of your shots.”
For Kerber, she was always the front-runner, having led Wozniacki 4-0 in the first set and 5-1 in the second before overcoming minor blips. Kerber becomes the first German woman to reach the No.1 ranking since her idol Graf in 1997.
Angelique Kerber: 5th woman to make her first 3 Grand Slam finals in the same year; 1st since Martina Hingis (1997) pic.twitter.com/2FLwxSIUTV
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 9, 2016
Kerber leads Pliskova 4-3 in past meetings but Pliskova did win 6-3 6-1 just three weeks ago in the final of the Cincinnati Open.