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Makarova into first grand slam semi-final as Serena marches on

ESPN staff
September 3, 2014 « Kompany injury fears allayed for City | McIlroy: Europe must manage expectations »
Serena Williams has dropped just 22 games so far at the US Open © Getty Images
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Off to a bad-as-can-be start to her US Open quarter-final, losing serve twice while dropping the first three games, even Serena Williams found it hard to believe.

"I was thinking, 'I'm down two breaks?" she said. "But I felt like, 'It's not the end of the world.'"

Quickly turning things around and taking complete control, Williams stretched her Flushing Meadows winning streak to 19 matches by eventually overpowering 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-3 6-2 on Wednesday night.

"I don't feel like I was doing too much wrong," said Williams, a five-time champion at the US Open, including the past two years. "So I said, 'If she keeps it up, she absolutely deserves the win.' And I just tried to do a little better."

Pennetta added: "Against her, you can't wait, you can't give her time, you can't fail to push her to her limits -- because if you do, she's a runaway train."

Williams is bidding to become the first woman with three consecutive US Open titles since Chris Evert won four in a row from 1975 to 78. The 32-year-old American also is trying to pull even with Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 Grand Slam singles trophies.

Williams had not yet reached a major semi-final in 2014, bowing out in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second at the French Open, and the third at Wimbledon. The last time she didn't reach at least one grand slam title match in a season was 2006, when she entered only two of the sport's top tournaments.

"Well, honestly, I've had a tough year in the majors and I've [lost to] some great players that weren't in the top 10," Williams said. "So you can never underestimate anyone."

Williams will face Ekaterina Makarova, reached her first grand slam semi-final after beating Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.

The 26-year-old Russian beat two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka 6-4 6-2 on Wednesday after losing her previous four major quarter-finals.

"I'm feeling amazing," Makarova said. "Finally I'm in a semi-final."

Azarenka's manager said she had food poisoning on Tuesday. Her PR representative told ESPN that Azarenka had eaten some bad sushi on Monday night.

"You know what? I don't really want to talk about it," Azarenka said when asked after the match about the food poisoning. "I just, you know, want to give credit to my opponent. She played really well today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I'm disappointed. But I feel like I tried my best with whatever I had."

Unusually subdued for most of the match, Azarenka smashed her racquet after one of her 27 unforced errors gave Makarova a break and a 4-2 lead in the second set.

"I'm not going to make any excuses today. As I said, I did the best I could today," Azarenka said. "I want to give full credit to my opponent. She deserves to win. She played much better than me today. That's it."

Azarenka, who has endured a season interrupted by injuries, fell short in her bid to reach a third consecutive US Open final, having been beaten in both by Serena Williams.

Makarova lost to Lucie Safarova in straight sets at the same stage at Wimbledon this summer, but has yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows.

Ekaterina Makarova celebrates after defeating Victoria Azarenka © Getty Images
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