Williams sees off battling Schiavone in New York
Venus Williams progressed into the last four at the US Open after beating French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
There was little to choose between the two 30-year-olds in what proved a tight match-up on the Arthur Ashe court. Williams, the last remaining American in both the male and female draws, boasted superior power in her serve and ground-strokes, but the Milanese Schiavone endeavoured to compete with her hard-hitting opponent.
A close first set saw Williams, the No3 seed, break first and take a brief lead. However, the plucky fifth seed fought back to break the two-time US Open champion. The set continued to ebb and flow in a similar pattern and was eventually decided on a tie-break.
Williams took an early 4-0 lead and it appeared the 2000 and 2001 New York champion would romp to a one-set advantage. But unsurprisingly, Schiavone battled back once more to level the match at 4-4 following a number of highly entertaining rallies; the Italian displaying soft hands at the net as she scurried across the court to hunt down Williams’ best efforts.
Despite a valiant comeback, an over-hit sliced backhand which drifted long provided Williams with a chance to claim the first set and the seven-time Grand Slam champions seized the opportunity much to the anger of Schiavone, who berated herself after an encouraging fight-back.
William’s, inspired by her tie-break success, stormed to a 4-1 lead in the second set. Yet the Italian displayed admirable fighting qualities once more and got back to 5-4 as Williams double-faulted on her chance to serve for the match.
The experienced Italian then had the opportunity to level the quarter-final at 5-5 but was unable hold her nerve as Williams broke and saw out the match to set up a semi-final clash with reigning champion Kim Clijsters.
The blustery conditions made for a difficult match for both players, a factor which Williams alluded to in her post-match interview.
“It was challenging,” said Williams. “I don’t think either of us were able to play our exact normal game because it was just hard to make a choice in the wind. I think you end up playing a little safer, more toward the center of the court.”
Meanwhile, Schiavone was disappointed to succumb to her seventh straight defeat to the American.
“Yes, I’m disappointed, because I had the chance and the quality to beat her,” said the Italian. “I think I lost this match a little bit more than she won it.
“She doesn’t like to play with me – I play different balls, I push her in defence, I don’t give her the chance to play how she wants. This time is for her, but I will find the way to beat her.”