2019 U.S. Open Live Updates: Serena Williams Returns to the Final

Serena Williams caught up with Chris Evert on Thursday night at the United States Open, claiming her 101st singles victory and doing it in deeply convincing fashion.

With the win, Williams advanced to the Open final on Saturday, when she will try, once again, to catch another great of the game: Margaret Court.

Williams, the No. 8 seed, certainly looked ready for the challenge after her 6-3, 6-1 demolition of the fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the semifinals.

She has overwhelmed so many worthy opponents under the lights and under pressure in her career, which has stretched across three decades.

Williams did not just blast away: She did a fine job of generating sharp angles with her groundstrokes that kept Svitolina from camping out too far behind the baseline and settling into a rhythm.

Williams also changed the pace on occasion, hitting drop shots and even, in a very rare move for her, deploying serve-and-volley tactics to save a break point in the first set.

“Don’t expect that again,” she said later. “What am I doing at the net? Let me get back to the baseline!”

As the match progressed, Williams was even beating Svitolina at her own game, winning extended baseline rallies.

But the shot that set the tone for Williams was the same as it has been for more than 20 years: her first serve. She hit it particularly well against Svitolina, and her average first-serve speed of 108.3 miles per hour was by far her highest of the tournament so far.

“I think she knows what she has to do,” Svitolina said. “She has unbelievable strength. There’s lots of power behind her shots all the time. That’s what makes her an unbelievable, legendary tennis player. On the important moments, she steps up, always steps up, always brings her best game.”

Svitolina was understandably impressed on Thursday, but in truth, Williams has not always produced her best tennis at the most important moments in the last two seasons.

Second set: Williams wins, 6-1

The beginning was a battle, but the end was a rout. Williams closed out Elina Svitolina on her second match point, blazing a backhand winner down the line to end with a bang after 1 hours 10 minutes.

Williams dominated all categories: she hit 34 winners to Svitolina’s 11, including 15-4 in the second set. In forehand winners in the match, Williams led, 13- 2. Williams won 11 of 16 points at the net, compared to 2 of 7 for Svitolina.

Williams also won 10 of 13 rallies that lasted nine or more shots, a particularly impressive number against a defender like Svitolina.

Second set: Williams 4, Svitolina 1

Williams is now leading by a set and double break, 6-3, 4-1, after again breaking Svitolina, this time at love. Williams has won 10 straight points; the most spectacular was her chasing down a Svitolina drop shot in the third point of the fifth game, sending it back for a forehand flick winner that brought the partisan crowd to its feet.

Second set: Williams 2, Svitolina 1

Williams now leads by a set and a break, up by 2-1 in the second set. Williams earned her first break point of the second set by winning a 14-shot rally full of defensive scrambling, ultimately getting the best of Svitolina in an exchange of backhands.

Williams made an unforced error with her forehand to squander the first chance, but quickly earned a second break point. On that second chance, Williams pounded a weak second serve from Svitolina with her backhand, and Svitolina could not muster a response.

First set: Williams wins, 6-3

Williams took the first set over Elina Svitolina, 6-3.

Williams held on to the break she earned in Svitolina’s opening service game, saving six break points in the set over all. Williams was able to dictate rallies frequently, and hit 19 winners to Svitolina’s seven, while having only one more unforced error than Svitolina (11 to 10).

Williams closed out the set with a 116 m.p.h. serve that Svitolina returned into the net.

Williams is 94-1 when winning the first set at the U.S. Open; her lone loss came in a 2015 semifinal against Roberta Vinci.

First set: Williams 4, Svitolina 1

After Svitolina got on the board with a hold in the fourth game, Williams has held onto her advantage, saving three more break points, from 0-40 down, to go up by 4-1.

Perhaps showing her ease at the moment, Williams saved the second with a serve-and-volley, the first time in the entire tournament she has used that tactic.

First set: Williams 3, Svitolina 0

The first two games of the first U.S. Open semifinal were battles. Williams, serving to open, needed to fend off three break points before holding.

In Svitolina’s opening service game, she double-faulted on two game points and then staved off two break points before Williams converted the third to go up 2-0, smacking an easy backhand return winner off a 79 m.p.h. second serve.

The third game was far simpler for Williams, who held at love to bring the match to its first changeover after 18 minutes. She sat down with a 3-0 lead as thousands of fans who had been waiting in the stadium corridors scurried to their seats.

Thursday’s second semifinal will feature two first-time Grand Slam semifinalists, as the 13th-seeded Belinda Bencic, 22, will face 15th-seeded Bianca Andreescu, 19, in a match between prodigies who could have arrived to this stage even faster, if not for injuries.

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