Sandra Harwitt, Special to USA TODAY
Published 9:23 p.m. ET Sept. 4, 2018 | Updated 9:28 p.m. ET Sept. 4, 2018
NEW YORK – Serena Williams looked like she could become the second upset victim of the day, but instead of following defending champion Sloane Stephens to the exit, she dug down deep to reach the US Open semifinal on Tuesday night.
Williams trailed eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 3-1 in the first set, and looked as if she couldn’t find her range while the Czech was in early control. But Williams turned it around with a 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win to remain on course for a potential 24th Grand Slam trophy.
The match ended in grand style for Williams, who hit four winners in a row – two aces, an overhead smash, and another ace – to win the final game.
“The crowd was really rooting for me and I felt so bad, and everybody out here was cheering and I wasn’t winning, so I had to try harder,” Williams told the crowd of her motivation to turn the match around.
The encounter was Williams’s 100th career match at Arthur Ashe stadium and she has gone 89-11 on the court. Overall, she’s played 105 US Open matches, going 94-11.
Pliskova is the first top 10 player that Williams has beaten since she returned to the tour from maternity leave in March. She previously lost to eighth-ranked Venus Williams in the third round at Indian Wells, 10th-ranked Angelique Kerber in the final at Wimbledon, and sixth-ranked Petra Kvitova in the second round at Cincinnati.
The Czech had three break points for a potential 4-1 lead in the opening set, but squandered those opportunities. Instead, Williams won eight consecutive games starting from when she held serve in the seventh game of the first set for a 6-4, 4-0 lead.
Overall, Pliskova had 12 break point chances but capitalized on two.
Williams eventually faltered when serving the fifth game of the second set to enable Pliskova to get on the scoreboard again. But that was the last gift Williams offered as she saved four break points on her serve in the seventh game.
Williams is the only player remaining in the women’s draw that is a Grand Slam champion. She has won 23 Grand Slam titles in her career and shares an Open era record of six US Open titles with Chris Evert.
In the semifinals, Williams will face the 19th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who downed Stephens 6-2, 6-3.
The semifinalists from the bottom half of the draw will be decided on Wednesday with 14th-seeded Madison Keys, a finalist last year, playing 30th-seeded Carloa Suarez Navarro of Spain, while 20th-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan takes on unseeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.