Serena Williams returns the ball against Victoria Azarenka at the 2020 US Open on Sept. 10, 2020 in New York City.
A blazing fast start proved not enough as Serena Williams fell to Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in Thursday’s US Open semifinals, ending her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, who had needed three sets to win each of her last three matches, came out with a bounce in her step and a sharpness in her groundstrokes as she won the first four games before taking the set 6-1. Alas, an easy victory would not follow for the 38-year-old Williams, who was the highest remaining player at No. 3.
The unseeded Azarenka found her serve in the second set and took over the momentum in a 6-3 win. The two-time Australian Open champ then kept it up in the third, going up 3-0 before winning 6-3. She moves on to Saturday’s final against No. 4 Naomi Osaka of Japan, who beat American Jennifer Brady in the early semifinal at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Thursday’s losses end two of the tournament’s most compelling stories, as well as a run of three straight years with an American woman in the final.
Williams has been stuck on 23 Grand Slams since the 2017 Australian Open, which she won while in the early stages of pregnancy with daughter Alexis Olympia. Since returning from maternity leave in 2018, Williams has reached four finals — two at Wimbledon and two at the US Open — but lost each time, including at the 2018 US Open to Osaka.
While Williams already holds the record for Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, one more win would tie her with Margaret Court for the all-time record. Williams was also seeking an Open Era-record seventh US Open title.
The 28th-seeded Brady, meanwhile, had been on a dream run throughout the first five rounds of the tournament.
Prior to this year, Brady, 25, had never been beyond the second round in Flushing Meadows. That changed in a big way this week, when she won her first five matches without giving up a set. In that time she never even faced a set point, with her closest win being 6-4 in the fourth round.
The fourth-seeded Osaka proved to be the foil, taking the first set 7-6 (1). Although Brady battled back to win the second set 6-3, Osaka was able to close out the match 6-3 in the third set.