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Serena Williams Rolls Into U.S. Open Semifinals. Now It Gets Interesting.

But no matter how impervious to pressure Williams looked on Tuesday night, the suspense didn’t really start at this U.S. Open until now.

Since she returned to the tour in 2018, after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, Williams’s problem at Grand Slam tournaments has not been finding form. It has been sealing the deal.

She has often hit the high notes in early rounds only to run into a mental block, an opponent on a roll or a combination of the two.

The latest example: this year’s Wimbledon final against Simona Halep.

Williams overwhelmed Barbora Strycova in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-2, only to look shaky and be routed, 6-2, 6-2, by Halep, who was in a counterpunching state of grace.

Svitolina, her opponent in Thursday’s semifinals, is a world-class counterpuncher like Halep. She is among the fastest and best defenders on tour, and has navigated through a particularly perilous section of the draw to reach her first U.S. Open semifinal without dropping a set.

She has defeated power players like Venus Williams, Madison Keys and, on Tuesday, Johanna Konta. She also won her most recent match against Serena Williams, defeating her in the round of 16 at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Svitolina, however, had lost their first four meetings.

“I played some big hitters in this tournament, a lot,” Svitolina said. “I have to just react quickly with my feet and with my shots, as well. Then when I have the opportunity, go for it.”

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