Former world No. 1 Venus Williams turned back the clock with some brutal hitting to overcome Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 yesterday and reach the semi-finals of the Pan Pacific Open.
The 33-year-old American, who won the last of her seven Grand Slam singles titles in 2008, recovered from a poor second set tiebreak with a series of electrifying shots and acrobatic volleys in the decider, completing victory with another ferocious forehand cross-court after a shade over three hours.
“It’s hard to believe it’s my first semi-final in Tokyo after all these years,” said Williams, currently languishing at 63rd in the world after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2011.
“Hopefully I can win it in a little less time. That’s the goal,” she added.
Taiwanese player Hsieh Su-wei went through to the doubles semi-finals with her playing partner Peng Shuai from China when they defeated Germany’s Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4.
Another Taiwanese player, Chan Hao-ching, and her doubles partner Liezel Huber of the US, also advanced to the semi-finals after beating Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-1, 6-2.
Watched from the royal box by five-time Pan Pacific champion Martina Hingis, Williams showed flashes of the form that swept her to five Wimbledon titles between 2000 and 2008 as she continued her purple patch in Tokyo.
She won her last singles title — her 44th — at the Luxembourg Open in October last year..
“I’ve played against so many great players over a couple of generations, it seems,” added Williams, who giggled when reminded that yesterday was her sister Serena’s 32nd birthday.
“We always forget each other’s birthdays. Serena’s getting old, like me,” Venus Williams said. “She’s an inspiration to me.”
Venus Williams upset top seed Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the US$2.3 million event, but the 19-year-old Bouchard, ranked 46th in the world, pushed her hard, taking the second-set tiebreak 7-4.
“Actually I’m surprised I’m able to play these matches, I can’t lie,” Williams said after her plans for karaoke and a visit to a nail salon were scuppered by her marathon quarter-final.
“It was just determination, adrenalin and desire. These three-hour matches really cut down on my social life,” she added.
Venus Williams is to face the 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the last four after the seventh-seeded Czech thrashed Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-1.
Earlier, fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki, the 2010 Tokyo winner, advanced to the semi-finals with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova.
Elsewhere, at the Yinzhou Bank International Women’s Open in China, Taiwanese player Chan Yung-jan and her Chinese playing partner Zhang Shuai advanced to the semi-finals in the doubles competition.