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Liguori: With Pressure-Packed Hurdle Cleared, Serena Could Cruise To Calendar Slam

By Ann Liguori
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What a special night Tuesday night was for many reasons. What theater!

And it wasn't because Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and Oprah were among the celebrities in the house.

First, we were treated to a compelling match between two of the greatest female athletes ever. Secondly, the Serena-Venus sibling rivalry is unprecedented. And of course, there was so much at stake in the younger Williams' quest to win a historic calendar grand slam, something only three other women have done.

In one of the most anticipated matchups in US Open history, the sister act did not disappoint. Serena dominated the first set, 6-2. Venus raised the bar in the second set with better serving and fewer mistakes to take it 6-1, but then Serena returned to her form in the third, winning it 6-3. She hit twice as many winners and closed out the match with her 12th ace.

GALLERY: Venus And Serena Do Battle At US Open

Serena advanced to her 10th US Open semifinal. The 33-year-old is only two wins away from achieving the first calendar grand slam since Steffi Graf in 2008. She is also going for her seventh US Open title and her 22nd major championship, which would tie Graf and be two behind Margaret Court.

All that said, I was especially interested in what the sisters had to say after the match.

"It's really great to see her do so well," Serena said. "She was at an unbelievable level today. Down to the match point it just was not easy. It's probably the toughest match I have played in a really, really, really long time where I wasn't actually beating myself. I was out there facing an incredibly tough opponent."

Serena maintained her composure despite all the attention on the matchup, the 27th meeting between the sisters, saying she didn't read newspapers or turn on the television. She stayed inside her own world, but she certainly understood the significance.

"I think it's the greatest story in tennis because we really ... you know, with our how we started and how we grew up and how we were able to win championships and be, you know, such inspirations for so many women across the globe. I mean, it doesn't get better than that," Serena said.

Venus was asked what it would mean to her if Serena completes the slam.

"I think that would be a huge, not just for me, but for my family just for what it represents and how hard we have worked and where we come from. So it would be a moment for our family," Venus said.

And leave it to Venus to keep Serena's quest in perspective.

"But at the same time, if it doesn't happen it's not going to make or break you," she added. "We don't have anything to prove. She has nothing to prove. She's really the best ever, so what are you going to do? Just try to make it. If you don't, then that's that and go to the next one."

Serena will next meet Roberta Vinci in one of Thursday evening's semifinals. Vinci, unseeded for the first time at the US Open since 2010, defeated Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

After all of the pressure and the effort exerted in the win over Venus, Serena has to feel a bit relieved. However, she can't let her guard down. She needs to keep her powerful serve within the lines. So far, she has smacked 38 aces, but has also double-faulted 22 times.

Serena shouldn't have any problem against Vinci, a 32-year-old Italian making her first grand slam semifinal appearance, but she will get frustrated with herself if her serve is iffy.

The other half of the women's semifinals will be set on Wednesday. Look for two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova to get past Flavia Pennetta, the 26th seed from Italy, and No. 2 seed Simona Halep will have a fight on her hands against 20th seed Victoria Azarenka, who is looking more like the player she was when she won two Australian Open titles.

Serena needs just two more wins, and now that she's gotten through the mental anguish of playing her sister, it should be smooth sailing to history.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori


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