“When I’m playing, I don’t think of her as my sister.” — Serena Williams.
“I still think of her as Serena. I don’t separate the two.” — Venus Williams
If greatness is determined by attitude, then Serena Williams wins every time. Even if that means sacrificing her older sister, the woman who has had her back ever since Serena’s braided, beaded head didn’t even reach Venus’ shoulders.
It is that mindset that allows Serena to stand at the precipice of immortality, two matches away from becoming the sixth player to capture the Grand Slam — victories at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It is a quest that was delayed only slightly Thursday when the women’s semifinals between the top-seeded Williams and Roberta Vinci, and second-seeded Simona Halep and Flavia Pennetta were postponed by rain. They are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.
There is no such thing as the “calendar” or “career” Grand Slam or even the “Serena” Slam. They are simply fabricated terms for players who are great but haven’t achieved true greatness. The only true Grand Slam winners, winners of the sport’s four majors in one season, are Don Budge in 1938; Rod Laver in 1962 and ’69; Maureen Connolly Brinker in 1953; Margaret Court in 1970; and Steffi Graf in 1988. Williams could be next.
When the draw for the U.S. Open was released, many gasped at the road Williams would have to travel to achieve her goal. There were 10 Americans in her quarter, including Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and her sister, Venus. Maria Sharapova and Belinda Bencic, one of only two players to defeat Williams this year, were also in that section. However, Sharapova pulled out with a leg injury before the tournament, and Venus knocked out Bencic.
There are now only three players left who can spoil the celebration. Combined, they have a 1-17 record against Serena, including an 0-4 mark for 32-year-old, 43rd-ranked Vinci, who will be Serena’s semifinal opponent.
Two years ago, Vinci was ranked just outside the top 10 and twice she has reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
Assuming she gets past Vinci, Serena will play Halep or Pennetta in the final. Pennetta, another Italian, ranked No. 26, has beaten the 23-year-old Romanian in three of their four meetings though Halep won in Miami earlier this year.
In the end, it is Serena Williams’ championship to win or lose.
There are no Americans left in men’s doubles after Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey squandered a match point and fell to the No. 8-seeded team of Jamie Murray and John Peers 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (9-7). This is the first time that Murray has advanced further at the U.S. Open than his younger brother, Andy.
Querrey and Bethanie Mattek-Sands will play Martina Hingis and Leander Paes for the mixed doubles title. Mattek-Sands won the mixed doubles at the French Open with Mike Bryan and the women’s doubles at the Australian and French Opens with Lucie Safarova. Hingis and Paes won the mixed doubles at this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.
10 a.m. Friday, ESPN
No. 2 Simona Halep vs. No. 26 Flavia Pennetta
No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Roberta Vinci