NEW YORK – For a brief moment, Serena Williams almost cracked. It did not happen during her semifinal match Thursday against Anastasija Sevastova, which she won handily to earn a trip to her ninth U.S. Open final.
It came moments after her 6-3, 6-0 victory, in an on-court interview when the magnitude of her yearlong journey — from the joy of giving birth to the fear of life-threatening postnatal complications and ultimately to the demanding path back to tennis success — seemed to hit her.
"I got a little emotional out there because last year I was literally fighting for my life in the hospital," she said. "I think I was on my fourth surgery by now. What is today? I was on my third surgery. I had one more to go still.
"To come from that, in the hospital bed, not being able to move and walk and do anything. Now only a year later, I'm not training, but I'm actually in these finals, in two in a row. Like I said, this is the beginning. I'm not there yet. I'm on the climb still."
Williams gave birth to a daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in a cesarean delivery during last year's Open, then endured multiple operations needed to address the complications. She came back on tour in March, reached the Wimbledon final in July, and now this.
It has been four years since Williams last made it to the final of a U.S. Open, and so much has happened in that time. She won five other Grand Slam titles, married and, of course, became a mother.
The only thing that seemed to elude her on the tennis court was another Open title. She has six already, and one more will break a tie with Chris Evert for the most by a woman, and will also draw her even with Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles titles.
In Saturday's final, Williams, seeded 17th, will play No. 20 Naomi Osaka, who became the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final when she beat No. 14 Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4.
The 20-year-old Osaka was born in Japan but moved to New York at the age of 3 and is now based in Florida. Her coach is Sascha Bajin, who used to be Williams' hitting partner.
"Mom, I did it. I love you. Thank you," Osaka said during her on-court interview. Up in the stands, her mother put two thumbs up and applauded.
Mike Bryan and Jack Sock moved into the men's doubles final with a 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-4 win over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. They will face seventh-seeded Luke Kubot and Marcello Melo, who won the day's first semifinal 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 over Radu Albot and Malek Jaziri.
In the women's doubles semifinals, the 13th-seeded pair of CoCo Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty upset the top-seeded duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 7-6 (6). Vandeweghe and Barty will face second-seeded Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos, who eliminated Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai 6-4, 7-6 (4).