Williams wary of unheralded Bertens
After her quarter-final struggle, Serena Williams will not be taking Dutch surprise Kiki Bertens lightly in her Roland-Garros semi-final.
World No.1 Serena Williams finds herself in an all too familiar position having reached her 30th Grand Slam semi-final, two wins shy of a hefty slice of history.
For a player whose more inconsistent results typically came on clay earlier in her career, Williams is closing on Justine Henin's spot in third place for the most Roland-Garros titles won, with four. Only Steffi Graf (6) and Chris Evert (7) would stand above her should Williams win her next two matches.
But moving up the Roland-Garros title list is not the sole objective of her Parisian campaign. The 21-time Grand Slam champion is one major away from drawing level with Graf's Open Era record. The disappointment of falling short in the Australian Open final to Angelique Kerber lingered well into her season, until a title run in Rome leading into Roland-Garros.
That resurrection in confidence carried over to Paris where she dropped just five games total in her first two matches before surviving set points to hold off French hopeful Kristina Mladenovic in in the third round. She was impressive in her dismissal of Elina Svitolina for the loss of just two games before surviving her first real scare in the quarter-finals against pint-sized dynamo Yulia Putintseva. The 60th-ranked Kazak had the top seed rattled for the best part of a set and a half on a misty, cold day.
The Next Challenge?
World No.58 Kiki Bertens was never a name anyone predicted to be standing in the last four at Roland-Garros this year and will have zero to lose when she meets the American for a place in a maiden slam final. Williams has never lost to a player ranked as low as Bertens at a major since No.111 Virginie Razzano in the first round at Roland-Garros four years ago. The pair squared off in the second round of last year's US Open where Williams ground out a closer-than-expected 7-6(5), 6-3 result."I remember her being just really tough, and you know, giving a good, tough performance. I was happy to get through that match," Williams said. "I know she won the week before and she's been playing really well."
The Talking Point?
Williams' run of 18 straight sets was snapped in the quarter-finals when Putintseva led by a set and twice earned a point at 4-4 in the second set to serve for a monumental upset. It was just the wake-up call the defending champion needed, having let a 4-1 lead disintegrate - she reeled off eight of the last nine games. "She played unbelievable. And I honestly didn't think I was going to win that in the second set," Williams admitted.
What have we learnt about Serena?
If her past two Grand Slam showings have proven anything, it is that with history on the line the wheels can get a little wobbly at this end of the tournament. A quarter-final scare may be just the spark needed to get the job done. At the US Open, with the chance to become the first player since Graf to claim the coveted Grand Slam, she bombed out in the semi-finals to Roberta Vinci, while at the Australian Open, still with a chance to equal Graf's record 22 slams, she stumbled against Kerber. If Putintseva taught her anything, she won't be writing off Bertens as a straight-sets easy-beat.