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Swiatek tops Pegula; faces Sabalenka in U.S. Open semifinals

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NEW YORK — Iga Swiatek’s game is most effective, her mind most at ease, on red clay courts, where her two Grand Slam titles so far arrived.

She sure seems to be getting the hang of this hard-court thing at the U.S. Open, though.

The No. 1-ranked Swiatek moved into her first semifinal at Flushing Meadows by pulling out a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over American Jessica Pegula in a match filled with a combined 13 breaks of serve, 10 in the second set alone.

Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland who won the French Open in 2020 and this June, twice failed to serve out the victory, at 5-4 and 6-5. But she was better in the tiebreaker, and when No. 8-seeded Pegula missed a backhand, Swiatek ran toward her guest box, flung her white racket away and yelled.

Now Swiatek will face No. 6 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in Thursday’s semifinals. The other women’s semifinal is No. 5 Ons Jabeur against No. 17 Caroline Garcia, who eliminated 18-year-old American Coco Gauff on Tuesday.

Of the four players remaining in the bracket, only Swiatek already owns a major championship. And only Sabalenka, who defeated two-time Slam runner-up Karolina Pliskova 6-1, 7-6 (4) earlier Wednesday, ever has been this far in New York previously; she lost in the semifinals last year.

“I’m ready for it,” Sabalenka said. “I’m ready for another fight.”

Sabalenka was bounced from the semifinals at Wimbledon last year by Pliskova. Sabalenka made sure from the start that this one would be different, racing to a 4-0 lead.

This year, Sabalenka could not participate at the All England Club, because all players from Russia and Belarus were banned over the invasion of Ukraine.