Serena Williams Keeps Things Light, Advances to US Open Semis

NEW YORK -- At one time, this would have been an automatic for Serena Williams. Especially at this stage and definitely on this stage, Serena advancing past a Grand Slam quarterfinal was easier to predict than what she would wear next on court.

But down 3-love to 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday, even Williams wasn't sure what would happen.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Serena Williams has won 19 straight matches at the US Open and hasn't dropped a set this year.

"I thought, if this keeps up," Williams said, "she absolutely deserves to win."

It has been that kind of year for Williams, but this year has also instilled a relaxed attitude that helped her pick up her game this summer and rally back against Pennetta with an ultimately stress-free, 6-3, 6-2 victory to set up a semifinal against 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova.

"It's easy now ... almost a joke for me because I have done little to no winning in the majors," Williams said of this year. "And now I thought, 'Take it as a joke. Oh my God, I'm past the fourth round. Woo. ... I better play doubles just in case I don't make it past the second round. At least I have a backup plan.'

"I think that definitely has been able to help me to relax ... and also realizing that I don't have to win anymore. Everything now is just extra."

The victory placed Williams atop the list of players with the most night wins in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It also drew her one step closer to winning a third consecutive US Open (Chris Evert won four from 1975-'78) and an 18th Grand Slam title, which would knot her with Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Williams is also hoping to avoid her first season since 2006 without at least one major final, which seemed a possibility after she lost 14 of the first 19 points against Pennetta.

But raising her level as she has so often been able to do, Williams reeled off 14 of the next 21 points and won the next six games and the match in easy fashion. She finished with seven aces and serves clocking up to 122 mph, and she had 31 winners to 13 by Pennetta, who reached the Open semis the past year.

Williams said that, down two breaks at the start, she had a little talk with herself.

"I felt like it's not the end of the world," she said. "[I told myself] 'You can just win one game at a time.' That's all I tried to do."

Williams has not lost a set in five matches here and has dropped just 22 games total in a half of a draw that caved in with losses to the Nos. 3, 7 and 8 seeds -- none of whom she faced.

Williams also catches a break, as the only one of the four semifinalists who has won a Grand Slam title. Only Caroline Wozniacki has come close, when she finished as the runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.

Williams leads her series with Makarova 3-1. Makarova won at the 2012 Australian Open, and Williams won their latest match, 7-6 (8), 6-0 in Dubai this year, also on hard court. The two also played in the third round of the US Open in 2012, with Williams winning 6-4, 6-0.

"For me, it's just about every day is a new day," Williams said. "You never know. Especially for me this year, you never know what can happen."

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