Venus Wimbledon probably loves Flushing Meadows.
After all, apart from Wimbledon, it is at the US Open that she has enjoyed the most success. Two of her seven Major titles have come in New York, consecutively in 2000-’01 alongside a slew of other semi-final and quarter-final appearances.
Her win over Petra Kvitova in Tuesday’s quarter-final marks her first semi-final appearance at the US Open since 2010. It also comes exactly two decades since she first reached the final in 1997, in her year of debut in the Major.
As the 37-year-old prepares to add another feather to her wide-brimmed cap, here’s looking back at five of her most memorable matches at the US Open:
1997 US Open semi-final
Well, first things first. The 1997 women’s singles final contested between Williams and Hingis is well-known and remembered, especially from Hingis’s perspective. However, Williams’s run to the final despite being relatively low-key was just as significant.
Then ranked 66th in the world, the 17-year-old Williams was still an enigma entering into the US Open that year. Indeed, as the unseeded player in the draw, not much attention was paid to her before she started commanding it by virtue of her performance in the fortnight.
Regardless, she wasn’t the favourite entering the semi-final against the 11th seeded Romanian Irina Spirlea. However, as she continued to push through her opponent’s defences it became clear that Spirlea wouldn’t have it easy against the American.
The match turned out to be fractious with the Romanian even racially abusing Williams for bumping into her purposefully during change of ends. But none of that mattered in the end as Williams took the win 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(7).
1998 US Open quarter-final
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario had won the 1994 US Open title, but in her quarter-final against Williams in 1998, she was no match for her 18-year-old rival.
Both players had reached the quarter-final without dropping a set in the first four rounds. And, as the Spaniard took the lead in the match by winning the opening set 6-2, it looked like she was on course to do the same against Williams as well. However, it was Williams who effectuated a huge turnaround in the latter two sets as she lost just a game each across each set to upset the fourth seed 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 and reach her second straight semi-final in Flushing Meadows.
2000 US Open semi-final
Williams and Hingis faced each other in the 2000 US Open semi-final, three years since they had first clashed in the final. A lot had, however, changed in these three years. While Hingis retained her hold as the world No 1, Williams had risen through the ranks and was a titlist at a Major herself – at the Championships that year.
When Hingis won the first set 6-4, it seemed as though she would coast through this match-up in straight sets too. But, it was at that point that Williams began her onslaught to continually wrong-foot Hingis, who was unable to match the power or timing the American generated on her shots. Williams prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in what was her 25th consecutive match win in the season.
It was also the first time that she had won two Major titles in the same year, a feat which she would go on replicate in 2001 with successful title defences in Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.
2002 US Open semi-final
Seeking her third US Open title in 2002, Williams encountered the 10th seeded Amelie Mauresmo in the penultimate round. While both players kept up an aggressive game, the Frenchwoman’s resilience troubled Williams to no end despite having won the opening set to lead in the match.
As Mauresmo levelled the match by winning the second set, she began to push through further at Williams with her serve-and-volley tactics. While Williams did get a crucial break in the final set to serve for the match in the 10th game, she found herself staring at triple break points hampered with a blister in her racquet hand.
However, she more than proved to be a match for Mauresmo’s tenaciousness as she first saved all three break points before clinching the 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win, a minute short of the two-hour mark.
2017 US Open quarter-final
This match-up was quite poignant. On one side there was Petra Kvitova, who had made it this far after facing the ordeal of being physically attacked at home during the 2016 off-season. And, there was Williams whose tennis journey had seen her battle through illnesses and injuries. More importantly, whose road through the sport had brought her back to the same place where her odyssey had begun 20 years ago.
Going into the match, it was Kvitova who had the upper-hand over the American leading their rivalry 4-1. However, as it would turn out, it was Williams who towered over the Czech with her past experiences of being in a similar position carrying her through.
Williams took the first set 6-3, only for Kvitova to retaliate and take the second by the same score-line. Predictably, the third set went into the tie-break, where Williams was at her ruthless best dropping just two points to clinch the win after two hours and 34 minutes.
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