By Laura Amato
It, simply, was not Serena Williams’ night Thursday. The top-seeded star fell to No. 10 Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semifinals, losing in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6 (5), at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
There were plenty of problems with Williams’ game in the semi—including a double fault on match point in the second-set tiebreak—but there was one thing the world No. 1 was adamant about: she didn’t lose because she was tired.
“I wasn’t tired from [Wednesday’s quarterfinal] match. I’m a professional player, been playing for over 20 years,” Williams said. “If I can’t turn around after 24 hours and play again then I shouldn’t be on tour. So I definitely wasn’t tired from yesterday’s match at all.”
Pliskova, who has been riding her own string of success in Flushing Meadows, cruised to a win in the first set, but Williams battled back down the stretch and rallied to 3-all in the tiebreak.
Williams won the next point, but double faulted to make it 4-all and gave Pliskova her first match point when she sent a backhand out on 5-all.
The match came to a surprising end as Williams double faulted and lost in the semis of the Open for the second straight year.
“To be honest, I don’t remember that,” Williams said of the early miscues. “I remember double faulting on match point, but I don’t remember the other ones.”
While Williams wasn’t willing to blame back-to-back matches on her loss, she did say afterwards that she battled through a left knee injury that hampered her game throughout the semifinal tilt.
“I wasn’t able to move the way I wanted to move,” she said. “When you’re injured you’re thinking of other things when you should be just playing and thinking of your shots. My mind was just a little bit everywhere. But it was what it was.”
Pliskova will take on Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final. Kerber took down Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 to earn a spot in her third Grand Slam final this year.
“I was watching the match a little bit before I came here but I was trying to focus on this match, not the match before,” Kerber said. “It’s just incredible. It’s a great day. To be here in the [US Open] final for the first time, that means a lot.”
While Pliskova and Kerber will take the spotlight this weekend, the focus, for now is another early exit by Williams. The veteran star will likely lose her No. 1 ranking after this latest loss, but even after the misstep, Williams is only willing to focus on the positives.
And there’s one thing she’s absolutely positive of—she’s not done yet.
“I’m only really proud—you know, obviously I’m a perfectionist and I love to win. That’s when I feel my proudest,” Williams said. “I think I had a pretty positive attitude mostly, outside of maybe my second round. I think that I could walk away with that.”