Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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Great athletes always dream big but if anyone had told Venus Williams at the start of 2017 that she would reach two Grand Slam finals and stand one win away from a third, even she might have told you to get real. But here we are, at the semi-final stage in the US Open and at 37, Williams is two wins away from winning her first Grand Slam title since 2008 and her first anywhere other than Wimbledon since 2002.
On Tuesday night, in an Arthur Ashe Stadium so noisy it felt like the roof, which was closed because of incoming rain, might break apart, the American thrilled the home crowd and broke the heart of Petra Kvitova, whose heartwarming run of form came to an end after a titanic struggle lasting more than two hours.
Williams trailed 3-1 in the final set but her will to win got her over the line, just about, with her 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2) victory setting up a semi-final against another American, Sloane Stephens.
“It definitely felt like a special match,” Williams said. “No easy moments, not easy to hold serve or break serve. This match meant a lot to me, obviously, playing at home and of course it being a major. It means a lot to her, you know, coming back and being able to compete in this major and to prove obviously to herself that she could defeat anything no matter what's thrown at her. It was amazing to see her shine today.”
This was a thrilling match, the pair going toe to toe, thrashing enormous groundstrokes with pinpoint precision, two champions refusing to buckle. Considering that two of their past three matches had gone the full distance – and the other had finished 7-5 in the third – it was no surprise to see it go to a final-set tiebreak. Kvitova had the lead in the third but Williams never gave in and when the Czech double-faulted, she was level.
Kvitova, who had dug herself out of numerous holes in the second set with some stunning serving, found her range toward the end of the match but Williams stayed strong and with the crowd pulling her over the line, she played a rock-solid tiebreak to get it done.
“When I had opportunities in the second set and so many break points disappearing, you feel like, wow, I should be doing more,” Williams said. “You have to put it behind you. Then at 3-all (in the third set), I felt, OK, now I'm really ready to hold serve and not get broken anymore. There were still moments where it was very close and you have to expect that. You have to expect to fight through those close moments. Definitely I felt at 3-all, like, all right, here we go again.”
In a couple of days I hope that I will say, good job
For Kvitova, the disappointment of losing such a close match was tough to take. But in the coming days, the satisfaction of what she has achieved in the first few months of her comeback after that horrific knife attack by an intruder in her home last December will eventually sink in.
“It's tough to say right now, but overall, I think it's amazing,” Kvitova said. “I didn't really think that I can come so far. Was great to win in Birmingham, but I think was pretty early, so I put a little bit pressure on myself. I just wanted to play better and better, which I wasn't pretty ready for that. I'm just glad that I could show it here, that there is a way to play well again.
"So from my side, in a couple of days I hope that I will say, Good job. But not just now.”
For the first time since 1974, two women’s quarter-finals went to a final-set tiebreak, with Stephens continuing her superb comeback from injury by reaching the last four of the US Open for the first time. It wasn’t easy but her 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4) victory over Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia put her into a second Grand Slam semi-final, four years after her first, which came at the Australian Open.
After 11 months out with a foot injury, the 24-year-old Stephens is on a roll, loving life after a tough time and loving her job. “It's incredible, amazing,” she said. If someone would have told me when I started at Wimbledon that I'd be in the semi-finals or making, well, three semifinals back to back, I would have said they're crazy.
"Just happy to be playing really well and happy that my foot is good and I don't have any pain and my body is holding up. I play tennis for a living and I enjoy it and I have a great time. I don't think there is anything else I'd rather be doing.”
It seems amazing given the number of top players they have produced over the years but South Africa had never had a semi-finalist at the US Open before Kevin Anderson wrote his name into the history books as he outgunned Sam Querrey 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 6-3, 7-6(7) in a match that finished shortly before 2am, booking a place in his first slam semi-final.
Anderson came from 5-2 down to win the first-set tiebreak and regrouped after losing the second, serving brilliantly and slamming 67 winners in all as he ended America’s hopes of a first men’s champion since Andy Roddick in 2003.
And what an opportunity he has now to go all the way to the final, since he plays Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta, the No.12 seed, who saw off unseeded Argentinian Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Both men are in unknown territory but Anderson has won both their previous matches.
“This is incredible,” Anderson said. “Getting through feels absolutely fantastic. This is very special for me, I’m going to try to enjoy it a little bit. It’s going to be a tough battle but I’m just so excited to be competing in a semi-final of a Grand Slam."
The clash between Anderson, at 6ft 8in and Querrey, at 6ft 6in, was the tallest battle at quarter-final level or better in a Grand Slam
And Mike Bryan set a new record on Tuesday as he earned the 1,052nd doubles win of his career as he and brother Bob beat Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 7-5 to reach the semi-finals. The victory moved him past Canada’s Daniel Nestor, who held the previous record of 1,051.
Anderson and Querrey thundered groundstrokes at each other for much of the match but this stunning exchange of volleys came at a crucial time.