Venus up and running
She overcomes bad knee to reach Open semifinals
NEW YORK — Venus Williams arrived at this US Open with a bum knee. She hadn’t played a match in more than two months. She hadn’t reached the semifinals at any Grand Slam tournament in more than a year.
And now? Williams is two victories away from her first US Open title since 2001.
The No. 3-seeded Williams overcame nine double-faults and a total of 33 unforced errors to beat reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, in the quarterfinals yesterday.
“I want to be in the final, because then obviously it’s just one more step,’’ the 30-year-old Williams said. “But I’m just focused on the semis, and I don’t get too excited unless the tournament is over.’’
Next up for Williams is a semifinal against defending champion Kim Clijsters, who ran her US Open winning streak to 19 matches by eliminating French Open runnerup Sam Stosur, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Clijsters and Williams have split their 12 previous meetings, but the Belgian won the most recent four, including in the fourth round in New York in 2009.
“Venus is a great competitor. She’s been playing some really great tennis these last few matches,’’ Clijsters said. “I look forward to it.’’
Williams is the only American singles player left in the 2010 tournament, because the last of the country’s 15 men in the field, 20th-seeded Sam Querrey, lost, 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, to No. 25 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland earlier yesterday.
Wawrinka, who joins Roger Federer to give Switzerland two quarterfinalists at a major for the first time, takes on No. 12 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia for a semifinal berth. Youzhny eliminated unseeded Tommy Robredo of Spain, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Robredo was one of five Spanish men in fourth-round action yesterday — and the others all played countrymen. No. 8 Fernando Verdasco closed out his thrilling 5-7, 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) comeback victory over No. 10 David Ferrer — only the second match Verdasco’s ever won after dropping the opening two sets — with as spectacular a match-ending shot as any.
Nearly 4 1/2 hours in, Verdasco found the energy to sprint from the baseline up to get to a drop shot and whip a forehand around the post for a winner. Verdasco dropped to his back, let go of his racket and put his hands on his head. Then he rose for a hug with Ferrer.
Watching on TV in the locker room were No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 23 Feliciano Lopez, who were waiting to follow Clijsters and Stosur into Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal then went out and showed no mercy for Davis Cup teammate and pal Lopez, beating him, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, in a match that ended at 1:16 a.m. Nadal saved all four break points he faced and hasn’t been broken a single time through four matches.
Nadal’s match against Verdasco will be the first all-Spanish quarterfinal in US Open history. It’s also a rematch of their classic 2009 Australian Open semifinal, a five-setter that lasted 5 hours and 14 minutes.
Asked whether she sensed any responsibility to carry American hopes, Williams smiled and replied: “If I felt like that, I don’t think I’d be able to even raise my arms. Thankfully, I don’t feel that way. I think my expectations are enough to deal with.’’