NEW YORK – Serena Williams overwhelmed 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals Friday to extend her U.S. Open winning streak to 20 matches.
If Williams can make that 21 in a row by beating Caroline Wozniacki in Sunday’s final, the 32-year-old American will become the first woman since Chris Evert in the 1970s to win three consecutive titles at the tournament.
After Makarova held to 1-1 she went 40 minutes until taking another game. Powered by swift serves and stinging forehands, Williams grabbed nine straight games, including a truly dominant stretch in which she took 22 of 24 points.
All in all, Williams’ semifinal was far less dramatic than Friday’s earlier match, when the 10th-seeded Wozniacki’s opponent, Peng Shuai, retired in the second set because of heat illness and left the court in a wheelchair.
Wozniacki lost her only previous major final, at the 2009 U.S. Open. Williams, meanwhile, is seeking a sixth U.S. Open championship and 18th major singles title overall, which would tie her with Evert and Martina Navratilova.
“She obviously wants to win and go for her first Grand Slam,” Williams said about her close friend Wozniacki.
“I want to win a Grand Slam for some history.”
This Grand Slam season has been rather poor by Williams’ lofty standards, though: She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open, and the third round at Wimbledon.
“It feels so good. You never know. I am so happy — you have no idea,” Williams said in an on-court interview. “I didn’t think I’d be here today.”
In the first semifinal, when the temperature was above 30 C and the humidity near 70 percent, Wozniacki was leading 7-6 (7-1), 4-3 when Peng was forced to quit. She began showing signs of distress early in the second set, clutching at her left thigh. During that set’s eighth game, Peng clearly was in serious trouble.
Peng was fighting pain in both legs and her back during and was eventually, helped over to a hallway adjacent to the court, where it was determined she had heat illness and needed treatment. In all, it was a 10-minute delay, which Wozniacki used to practice serving. Peng tried to play on and stuck it out for six more points, before collapsing to the ground, resting on her hands and knees as Wozniacki walked around the net to check on her.
At a news conference more than four hours later, Peng said she was feeling better. She was not sure whether, in the end, she was the one who said she had to retire or was told to (although tournament director David Brewer said it was Peng’s decision).
Peng, who is 28, did recall how she reacted when the doctor suggested it might be a good idea to quit.
“I said, ‘No, no, no. I don’t want to give up. I want to try one more time,’ ” said Peng, who was playing in her first semifinal in 37 career major tournaments.
“I knew I’m not going to stay maybe too long, but I just want to try, you know. I just wanted to challenge her one more time.”