Venus reaches US Open semis

Venus Williams beat No 3-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) on Wednesday to return to the US Open semifinals for the first time since 2002.

updated: September 08, 2007 08:22 IST
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New York:

Venus Williams beat No 3-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) on Wednesday to return to the US Open semifinals for the first time since 2002.

Williams turned her game on when she needed to, then got some help from a fading foe to achieve what her sister Serena couldn't in the quarterfinals Tuesday: overcome a daunting deficit against a top opponent.

Now Venus will play the woman who beat Serena, No 1 Justine Henin. "I was so disappointed. I watched. More than anything, she's my little sister, so watching her be upset is hard for me. I've got to play well Friday for her," said Venus.

In the other semifinal, 2004 Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet No 6 Anna Chakvetadze in an all-Russian matchup.

Against Jankovic, the older Williams took a while to find the mark, falling behind by a set and a break. But by the end she was playing as well as she did en route to winning Wimbledon in July for her sixth Grand Slam title.

Jankovic made four unforced errors to allow Williams to take control in the tiebreaker. And the American ended it with a swinging forehand volley, an appropriate conclusion given that she made 55 trips to the net, winning 39 of those points. Jankovic was far less aggressive, pushing forward only six times.

Williams dictated play in general, finishing with a whopping 60-17 edge in winners. "First of all, I want to say, 'Well done,' to Venus," Jankovic said. "She deserved to win. She was better at the end."

Jankovic broke in the very first game, managing to return serves of 115 mph and 119 mph, and capping it with a perfectly placed lob. That was the first of four lob winners that Jankovic curled like a rainbow over the 6-foot-1 Williams.

Jankovic broke again for a 4-1 edge by smacking a return winner off a 100 mph serve. Then, serving for the opening set at 5-4, Jankovic fell behind love-30 and easily could have folded, much as she did when she blew a huge lead against Henin in last year's Open semifinals.

But this time, she hung tough, taking four points in a row, including ending one 19-stroke exchange with a backhand winner, to grab the set. That drew loud chants of "Yell-eh-na!" from Serb supporters standing at the top of the upper deck.

The second set started with more of the same. Williams hit two double-faults, she wound up with eight, and wildly missed a swinging volley several feet long to set up another break point. Jankovic converted it with a lob, then held up a fist and smiled at her mother, who smiled back.

Williams then went on to take seven of the next eight points, opening a six-game sweep through the end of the set.

The third set featured some brilliant shotmaking by both women, exactly the sort of display tournament organizers envisioned when they moved this match off on Tuesday's schedule in hopes of adding some star power on Wednesday.