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Serena Williams and Dominic Thiem power through at US Open

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka awaits the American in the semi-finals.

Serena Williams celebrates her quarter-final win.
Serena Williams celebrates her quarter-final win.
Image: Seth Wenig

SERENA WILLIAMS TOOK another step towards that elusive record-equalling 24th grand slam title after coming from behind to beat Tsvetana Pironkova and reach the US Open semi-finals, where she will face former world number one Victoria Azarenka.

Meanwhile, in the men’s quarter-finals, second seed Dominic Thiem beat Alex De Minaur to set up a blockbuster last-four meeting with last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev.

However, the big story of the day surrounded Williams – who stayed on course to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles after stalling Tsvetana Pironkova’s remarkable comeback in the US Open quarter-finals.

Six-time champion Williams was forced to fight back from a set down for the third consecutive round before clinching a 4-6 6-3 6-2 success over the Bulgarian, who was playing in her first tournament for three years.

Afterwards Williams was full of praise for the performance of fellow mother Pironkova, admitting: “It just shows me how tough moms are – when you can birth a baby then honestly you can do anything.

tennis-us-open Serena Williams reacts after winning a point in last night's quarter-final. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

“I could barely win a match when I came back, so she’s incredible. You play a match and you go home and you’re still changing diapers. It’s like a double-life – it’s really surreal.”

Pironkova, who beat Venus Williams en route to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2010, had seized advantage of a new rule which allows players who have taken time off the tour to give birth to return at their original ranking.

Pironkova said her performance in her first tournament since Wimbledon 2017 had surpassed expectations.

“Coming here I had no expectations at all,” she admitted: “Of course I had doubts in my first match, but things started to work out for me.

“It’s been quite a long journey and it’s been amazing. I just feel privileged to be here, and to be able to have played my favourite sport in such a big arena.”

In the semi-finals Williams will face another mum, Victoria Azarenka, who dismantled Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens.

Azarenka, who won the Cincinnati tournament a fortnight ago, is showing the sort of form which took her to world number one eight years ago.

Now 31, the Belarusian simply blew away Mertens 6-1 6-0 in just 73 minutes.

Twice a US Open finalist, and twice beaten by Williams, Azarenka said: “That was pretty good today! I saw the ball really well and executed my plan.

“Now it’s an amazing opportunity to play against a champion and my friend. It will be fun.”

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Elsewhere, in the men’s quarter-finals, Thiem swept aside Alex De Minaur, the young Australian, 6-1 6-2 6-4, to move another step closer to a maiden grand slam title.

The defaulting of world number one Novak Djokovic, along with the absences of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, has ensured a new name will be on the trophy this year.

And after a full throttle performance of beauty mixed with brutality, Thiem served notice that he is finally ready to step out of the shadows.

“I guess it’s somewhere in the back of the heads of all four remaining players,” said Thiem, who faces Daniil Medvedev in the last four.

“There may not be Novak, Roger and Rafa but their is Daniil, Sascha (Zverev) and Pablo (Carrena Busta).

“They are three amazing players and everyone of us deserves this first title. We will give it all. Once we step on the court we will forget about the other three.”

De Minaur managed an early break of the Thiem serve, but it was the only time he laid a glove on the three-time grand slam finalist in the first set.

us-open-tennis Austria's Thiem stretches for a return against Alex de Minaur. Source: Frank Franklin II

The occasional unforced error began to creep in off the Austrian’s racket in the second but De Minaur was unable to take advantage.

The 21-year-old Australian had no answer to the explosive forehands and the irresistible backhands which had kept him at arms length throughout.

Down a break in the third, De Minaur briefly rallied to lead 4-3, but he allowed Thiem to take back control and has now lost all nine of the matches he has played against top five players.

For Thiem, last year’s runner-up Medvedev stands between him and a place in the final.

The third seed shrugged off an injury scare and a power outage to beat Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev in straight sets.

Medvedev saved four break points in the first set tie-break, which was briefly delayed by an electrical fault, and his 7-6 (8) 6-3 7-6 (5) win did not come without fitness concerns.

He required treatment on his shoulder for cramp midway through the third set and admitted afterwards the match might have taken a turn for the worse had he not polished off the second tie-break.

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