Things are getting serious at the US Open.

The women's semi-finals took place on day 11, with the focus firmly on Serena Williams' pursuit of history.

Williams is now a win away from tying Margaret Court's record for grand slam singles titles with her 24th major, the modern-day queen of the court wowing royalty in the stands with a dominant performance against Elina Svitolina.

Omnisport's man on the ground, Nicholas McGee, provides the details in our daily diary from New York.

 

A ROYAL OCCASION ON ASHE

Wimbledon is often graced by the presence of the British royal family, and there was one queen in attendance at Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch Williams rule over the court yet again.

Queen Latifah was a particularly interested spectator during Williams' rout of Svitolina, while Hollywood royalty also looked on.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee was in attendance and received a huge cheer from the crowd when the Brooklyn-raised star was shown on the big screen.

BARTY & AZARENKA RACE THROUGH

Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka have six grand slam titles between them across singles and doubles, but that number could be about to increase.

The experienced pairing reached the women's doubles final by hammering Viktoria Kuzmova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Louis Armstrong Stadium. 

Barty and Azarenka lost just one game in the match, which they needed only 56 minutes wrap up in a display that should serve as an ominous sign for Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka and Caroline Dolehide and Vania King, who will meet in the second semi-final.

 

OSAKA GETS WOMEN'S SPORTSMANSHIP GONG

After Diego Schwartzman was presented with the men's sportsmanship award on Wednesday, the US Open confirmed the women's prize had gone to dethroned champion Naomi Osaka.

There could be no more deserving winner, with Osaka's actions following her win over 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round winning her plaudits around the world.

OMNISPORT REPORTER ENJOYS SOME PARK LIFE

The lighter schedule that comes with the latter part of the tournament presents the opportunity for some down time.

Our man in New York made the journey from Queens to Manhattan to explore the Big Apple.

Stomping the sidewalks can be tiring, but thankfully New York has plenty of places to take the weight off your feet, with Union Square Park one such laid-back spot.

Statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln feature prominently in the park and, though her achievements are of a very different nature, there is a strong chance Williams could join them in being bronzed once she finally hangs up the racquet.

US Open champion Naomi Osaka was forced to dig deep in her first-round match, while former winner Sloane Stephens was a surprise casualty in New York.

Returning to the scene of her maiden grand slam title, world number one Osaka outlasted Anna Blinkova in three sets on Tuesday.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff also reached round two, but Stephens headlined the exits.

 

OSAKA OVERCOMES NERVES IN NEW YORK OPENER

Top seed Osaka edged unseeded opponent Blinkova 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 in an unconvincing display at Flushing Meadows.

Osaka was not at her best, tallying 50 unforced errors, but the two-time grand slam champion still managed to book a second-round date with Magda Linette.

"I don't think I've ever been so nervous in my life," Osaka said during her on-court interview. "I don't think I ever really found my rhythm, but I just fought as hard as I can."

 

HALEP HANDLES LUCKY LOSER

Romanian star and fourth seed Halep prevailed 6-3 3-6 6-2 against lucky loser Nicole Gibbs.

Halep produced when it mattered most as she avoided becoming only the second player in the Open Era to follow up victory at Wimbledon with a first-round loss in New York.

Next up for Halep is qualifier Taylor Townsend, who rallied past Kateryna Kozlova 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Wozniacki, meanwhile, came from a set down to see off Wang Yafan 1-6 7-5 6-3 in an opening-round scare.

Runner-up in 2009 and 2014, 19th seed Wozniacki meets Danielle Collins in the second round after the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist defeated Polona Hercog 6-3 4-6 6-4.

 

GAUFF'S STAR CONTINUES TO SHINE

The fairytale story of Wimbledon, Gauff fought past fellow teenager Anastasia Potapova 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Gauff rose to stardom at Wimbledon earlier this year, making the fourth round at the All England Club.

The American sensation emerged triumphant in her main-draw debut at her home major on Tuesday thanks to seven breaks of serve.

"It was crazy," said Gauff, who will play qualifier Timea Babos after 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro retired at the end of the first set. "Obviously I was nervous going out on the court. It's such a big court. Then my home slam, so I wanted to do well. The crowd really helped me the whole match. Like, it was really a great atmosphere to play in and a great experience for me."

 

KALINSKAYA SLAYS SLOANE

There was a major upset in New York, where 2017 champion Stephens was sensationally eliminated 6-3 6-4 by qualifier Anna Kalinskaya.

Stephens hoped to enjoy another deep run at Flushing Meadows after reuniting with long-time coach Kamau Murray but Kalinskaya had other plans for the 11th seed.

Two-time grand slam winner and 24th seed Garbine Muguruza also fell at the first hurdle, knocked out 2-6 6-1 6-3 by Alison Riske.

Svetlana Kuznetsova – the 2004 champion – went down 7-5 6-2 to Kristie Ahn, while two-time finalist and former world number one Victoria Azarenka lost 3-6 6-3 6-4 to ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Flushing Meadows was abuzz with excitement at the news Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in round one of the US Open.

Thursday's draw threw up an absolute humdinger of a tie between two of the greatest and most recognisable tennis stars of all time.

But there are plenty of other eye-catching matches in the first round of the final grand slam of 2019.

Below we have picked out six of the best to watch in New York.


SERENA WILLIAMS V MARIA SHARAPOVA

Undoubtedly the stand-out tie in the entire draw. There is little love lost between the two long-term foes, but the rivalry has been extremely one-sided. Sharapova's last prevailed against Williams way back in 2004 and, while the two have never faced off at the US Open, the Russian will need to roll back the years to end the drought.

ARYNA SABALENKA v VICTORIA AZARENKA

Sabalenka can be forgiven for cursing her luck at landing a daunting first-round tie with Belarus compatriot Azarenka, who she has never met in a competitive match. In a year that has seen her reach a career-high ranking of nine, a position she currently holds, a meeting with the former world number one straight out of the gate is not what she would have wanted as she aims to go beyond round four of a slam for the first time.

ALISON RISKE v GARBINE MUGURUZA

Two-time slam winner Muguruza faces a Riske-y tie in the opening round. The 29-year-old Riske has been consistently in the top 50 over the past six years and won the pair's past meeting in Tokyo in 2018.

RAFAEL NADAL v JOHN MILLMAN

On the face of it, this looks a complete mismatch, particularly as Nadal won their only competitive meeting at Wimbledon in 2017. But Australian Millman caused a mammoth upset at Flushing Meadows 12 months ago when he defeated Roger Federer to make the quarter-finals – his best result at a grand slam. He will be hoping for a repeat against three-time victor Nadal.

DENIS SHAPOVALOV v FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME

In a nice coincidence, two of Canada's finest young stars meet in a repeat of a 2018 first-round tie. On that occasion, Shapovalov consoled his good friend with a big hug after Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire in the third set with the opening two having been shared. Both men have been tipped for big futures and this one could be a cracker.

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS v ANDREY RUBLEV

Tsitsipas' season has stalled after a brilliant start to 2019 that saw him reach the Australian Open semi-finals, where Nadal proved too big of a hurdle to overcome. A first-round defeat at Wimbledon was the precursor to a difficult hard-court warm-up for the Big Apple, which saw early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati – albeit he did reach the last four in Washington. Rublev was a quarter-finalist in Cincinnati, losing only to in-form Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev, and as a fellow star of the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals he will fancy his chances of an upset.

Ashleigh Barty and Sloane Stephens bowed out of the Rogers Cup on a day of upsets in Toronto on Tuesday.

World number one Barty and last year's runner-up Stephens were two of five seeds to fall at the WTA Premier tournament in Canada.

While that pair departed in the second round, Madison Keys, Aryna Sabalenka and Anastasija Sevastova were first-round losers.

 

BARTY, STEPHENS BOW OUT

In action for the first time since Wimbledon, Barty suffered a shock 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 loss to American Sofia Kenin.

The Australian is now at risk of losing her top ranking, with Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova having the chance to return to number one.

The only way Barty will remain number one is if Osaka loses her opening match and Pliskova fails to reach the semi-finals.

Runner-up last year, Stephens went down to qualifier Marie Bouzkova 6-2 7-5 for her third straight loss.

SEEDS SLIP UP

Keys almost got through her opener, but eventually lost to Donna Vekic 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) after squandering three match points.

The American, runner-up in 2016, served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, only to give up a 40-0 lead before bowing out.

Sabalenka was also edged, going down to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6 6-3 7-5.

Sevastova, the 10th seed, was beaten by China's Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, with Kiki Bertens the only seed to progress.

Bertens thrashed qualifier Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2 6-1 in just over an hour.

 

AZARENKA POWERS THROUGH, VENUS DEPARTS

Victoria Azarenka booked her spot in the second round thanks to a 6-2 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi.

The 2014 runner-up Venus Williams, meanwhile, was well beaten by Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4 6-2.

In an all-Canadian clash, Bianca Andreescu got the better of wildcard Eugenie Bouchard 4-6 6-1 6-4.

Victoria Azarenka was beaten by Donna Vekic at the Silicon Valley Classic, while two seeds made second-round exits on Thursday.

Azarenka went down to fifth seed Vekic 6-4 6-3 at the WTA Premier event played on hard-courts in San Jose, California.

Both players created eight break-point opportunities, but Vekic made the most of hers, converting five compared to Azarenka's three.

The Croatian moved into the quarter-finals, where qualifier Kristie Ahn awaits.

Ahn caused an upset with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Belgian third seed Elise Mertens.

Another seed, Danielle Collins, was also resoundingly beaten, suffering a 6-2 6-0 loss to Zheng Saisai.

Zheng will meet Amanda Anisimova after the 17-year-old fourth seed cruised past Madison Brengle 6-2 6-2.

Venus Williams' tough run of form continued with a first-round loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Silicon Valley Classic, while Victoria Azarenka cruised through.

Williams has won just two matches since the French Open and the American veteran went down to Mattek-Sands 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-1 in a battle of the wildcards at the WTA Premier tournament in San Jose, California on Tuesday.

The seven-time grand slam singles champion had won her previous four matches against Mattek-Sands, but that run came to an end.

Azarenka, meanwhile, is continuing to enjoy a fine season and was untroubled by qualifier Harmony Tan, winning 6-2 6-4.

The two-time Australian Open champion set up a last-16 clash with Donna Vekic, the Croatian fifth seed having overcome Misaki Doi 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Vekic was one of two seeds in action, with Danielle Collins also progressing, getting past Zhang Shuai 6-4 5-7 6-2.

Meanwhile, Zheng Saisai hammered Heather Watson 6-3 6-1 and Madison Brengle breezed past Andrea Petkovic 6-0 6-3.

Cori Gauff followed up her victory over Venus Williams by easing past Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets to book her place in the third round at Wimbledon.

Teenage sensation Gauff showed her win against five-time Wimbledon champion Williams was no fluke with a dominant 6-3 6-3 triumph over Rybarikova on No.1 Court.

Earlier on Wednesday, Simona Halep progressed from an all-Romanian tie against Mihaela Buzarnescu, while third seed Karolina Pliskova continued her hunt for a first grand slam prize with a convincing 6-0 6-4 win over Monica Puig.

Caroline Wozniacki was made to work hard by debutant Wimbledon Veronika Kudermetova, eventually prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 victory, with Anett Kontaveit dispensing of Heather Watson.

It was not all plain sailing for the favourites, though, as Anastasija Sevastova and Madison Keys – 12th and 17th seeds respectively – crashed out.

Margarita Gasparyan, meanwhile, was left in tears as – after she suffered an awkward landing – she had to retire with the score at 5-7 6-5, handing eighth seed Elina Svitolina a reprieve.

HISTORY MAKING GAUFF ROLLS ON

Gauff stunned Williams in the first round, and clearly took plenty of confidence into Wednesday's clash with Rybarikova, making light work of her opponent to set up a third-round tie with Polona Hercog, who beat Keys 6-2 6-4.

"I think I played well, especially on the pressure points. She was serving amazing so it was hard to return sometimes," 15-year-old Gauff told BBC Sport.

"There's so much going on. I'm still shocked that I'm even here. I think I can beat anyone who's across the court. If I don't think I can win the match then I won't even step on the court."

 

HALEP HOLDS FIRM

Former world one Halep dominated early but lost her form in the second set to hand compatriot Buzarnescu a lifeline.

Halep rallied to break twice and win the third set, though, and she will now face two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, who overcame Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 6-0.

"I think I'm playing okay. It's always tough on grass. But it was a tougher match than first one, so it was good that I could win it," Halep told a news conference. "I felt confident on court. I felt strong mentally."

 

WOZNIACKI EGES IT AS PLISKOVA CRUISES

Like Halep, Wozniacki was also run close in her contest with Kudermetova, who stunned the world number 19 when they met at the French Open in May.

Kudermetova forced a tie-break in the first set, but Wozniacki's experience eventually told when she reeled off the last two points in a row before closing out the win in style.

Pliskova, meanwhile, had no such issues against Puig, hitting nine aces and 23 total winners in her one-hour victory.

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