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Serena Williams (USA) returns a shot to Flavia Pennetta (ITA) on day ten of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK - Serena Williams stayed on course for her third consecutive U.S. Open title by overcoming a shaky start against Flavia Pennetta of Italy on Wednesday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

No. 1 Williams beat 11th-seeded Pennetta 6-3, 6-2 in 63 minutes to reach the semifinals for the ninth time but first at any major in 2014.

"It feels so special to be back in the semifinals for the first time, especially here in New York, in my hometown country," said Williams in an on-court interview after extending her U.S. Open unbeaten streak to 19. "I'm so happy to have done it here."

In a contest between 32-year-olds, Williams came out of the gates more tentative. The American was broken twice and lost 14 of the first 19 points to quickly fall behind 0-3.

But 10 minutes and a few vociferous "C'mons!" later, Williams had pulled back to 3-3 with improved footwork and increased aggression. She reeled off the next six games to close out the set.

Williams kept up the pressure in the second set, breaking the Italian counter-puncher twice more to close out the match. Williams improved to 6-0 lifetime against last year's U.S. Open semifinalist. She finished with seven aces, 31 winners and 19 unforced errors.

Williams, a five-time U.S. Open winner, is now two matches from her first major title of the season after failing to get past the fourth round at any of this year's three previous majors.

She is seeking to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 total Grand Slam crowns and equal Evert's Open-era high-mark of six U.S. Open championships.

Williams next plays No. 17 seed Ekaterina Makaraova of Russia, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday. Makarova defeated 2012-13 U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-2.

Friday's other women's semifinal pits No. 10 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark against unseeded Shuai Peng of China.

Follow Douglas Robson on Twitter @dougrobson.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Serena Williams overcomes slow start to reach semis

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