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Serena earns chance to match title record

The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams was a bit shaky at the start of her U.S. Open semifinal.

For all of 6 minutes.

That’s how long it took her to drop the opening two games. Williams spent the next hour playing flawlessly, particularly up at the net, grabbing 12 of 13 games to beat No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-3, 6-0 and reach her ninth final at Flushing Meadows and 31st at all Grand Slams.

“I’ve been working hard on my volleys. I have won a few doubles championships, so I know how to volley,” Williams said with a laugh, before adding this punch line: “I just usually come in only to shake hands.”

With one more win, Williams can earn her seventh U.S. Open championship and her 24th major singles trophy, equaling Margaret Court for the most in history. Williams already owns the mark for the most in the half-century professional era; Court won some of hers against amateur competition.

Williams had lost in the semifinals in her previous two trips to New York — against Roberta Vinci in 2015 while bidding for a calendar-year Grand Slam, and against Karolina Pliskova in 2016. A year ago, Williams missed the U.S. Open because she gave birth to her daughter, Olympia, during the tournament. She then dealt with complications related to blood clots.

The American returned to the tour in February and to Grand Slam action at the French Open in May, when she had to withdraw from the field with an injured chest muscle. At her second major back, Wimbledon, she was the runner-up.

Now comes a chance to take a title and become, a few weeks shy of turning 37, the oldest woman to win a Slam in singles.

“It’s honestly really incredible. A year ago, I was fighting for, literally, my life at the hospital after I had the baby,” Williams said, her voice wavering. “So every day I step out on this court, I am so grateful that I have an opportunity to play this sport, you know?”

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