Serena Williams claims her 36th major semifinal

Serena Williams hits a backhand during her 6-4 6-3 victory in Tuesday's quarterfinal match

"I'd been a couple steps away at the last Grand Slam, so I'm definitely not ahead of myself", said Williams, the memory of a 6-3 6-3 loss to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final still fresh.

One match at a time.

Williams looked destined to drop the first set against eighth seed Karoline Pliskova, trailing 4-2 and down a break. The No.17 seed, in fact, gained a higher percentage of first serve points and returned to 65% of Pliskova's first serves, while the Czech was limited to 55%.

Pliskova started off strong, breaking serve in the third game and jumping out to a 4-2 lead in the first set. After being down 3-1 and facing seven break points, Williams had won eight straight games. Osaka put it best after her quarterfinal win: "Sometimes I go insane and then I start hitting everything".

"She hit all first serves on the break points, which is always a little bit tougher to return", Pliskova said. She made 22 unforced errors in the opening set but showed her hunger and big-match experience to battle back and win the last four games. She can make mistakes. But the 28-year-old Latvian, who left the pro tour for 16 months ending in January of 2015 with recurring illness and injury, is 15-3 in recent matches.

That setback prompted Williams to raise her level in the deciding set. To come back from motherhood and achieve success is something only a small club of players has done, among them Evonne Goolagong, Kim Clijsters, Williams herself, her close friend and former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka, and record-holder Margaret Court. She was as calm on court as she has been all tournament, channeling her emotions into making masterful shots.

Interestingly, Williams' quarter-final win on Wednesday marked her 100th match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium - the venue of Williams' first-ever Grand Slam singles title 19 years ago, in 1999 at the age of 18.

Serena Williams reflects on her quarterfinal win over Karolina Pliskova and being compared to Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali by film director Spike Lee. "I don't think I have another 10 years of opportunities to be able to play and win championships". But at her match this week, her response was subtle, but firm nevertheless - an appearance in a periwinkle, tulle tutu; the greatest, bar none.

She finished the match with 13 aces and will take on Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the final after the 19th-seeded Latvian toppled defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3. After just 20 minutes Tuesday night, Williams was in danger of trailing by two service breaks.

"The crowd was really rooting for me and I felt so bad because everyone out here was cheering and I wasn't winning so I thought I had to try harder", Williams said courtside. "But I don't play dropshots when I see the player struggling or bending over, no", Sevastova said.

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