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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The last time CoCo Vandeweghe raised a US Open title, she was a promising teenager who felt invincible.

Today, the 25-year-old native New Yorker was invulnerable in critical stages charging to within one win of her first US Open final.

Watch: Venus Defeats Kvitova In Thriller

The 20th-seeded Vandeweghe saved a set point defeating Karolina Pliskova, 7-6 (4), 6-3, powering into her first US Open semifinal with a spirited victory that will end the Czech’s reign as world No. 1.

It is Vandeweghe's second Grand Slam semifinal of the season, following her breakthrough in Melbourne where she powered into the Australian Open final four with wins over Genie Bouchard, then world No. 1 Angelique Kerber and future No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza. 

In a confident display of first-strike tennis, Vandeweghe won 81 percent of first-serve points and denied five of seven break points defeating the 2016 finalist for the third time in their last four meetings. The winner of the first set tie break has won all four of those matches.

Continuing the American anthem in the women’s draw, Vandeweghe’s victory makes an all-American semifinal sweep possible.

Two-time former champion Venus Williams will face Sloane Stephens in one semifinal, while Vandeweghe will take on either 15th-seeded compatriot Madison Keys or 32-year-old Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi for a spot in the final.

"I think it depends on me, mostly, because similar to today and the other day against Lucie (Safarova), Madison is a player that can take control of the points and of the rallies," Vandeweghe said. "I think if I allow her to do that, then she's going to be on the winning side of the coin. Similar to Pliskova today and Lucie the other day.

"So I think it's definitely going to depend on me and making sure she's not capable of doing that. But I think the same goes for Kanepi, as well. I think Kanepi is also a big player. She's former top 20. I have played her a couple of times and been blown off the court when I was younger, because, you know, she plays that big."

The last time four American women contested the US Open semifinals was in 1981 when Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Barbara Potter formed the final four.

Nine years ago, America wild card Vandeweghe rolled to the 2008 US Open junior title without surrendering a set dreaming of playing for the women’s title—and boldly believing in the inevitability of overnight success on the pro stage.

“When I won this event as a junior at 16 I always dreamed about being here on the main stage moving through the draw,” Vandeweghe told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi.  “It is a process. I did expect it overnight when I was 16. It is a process. And now here I am and I couldn’t wish for anything better.”

Sometimes the journey to maturity leads you right back home again.

This loss costs Pliskova her world No. 1 ranking.

Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza will supplant Pliskova as the new WTA World No.1 on Monday, September 11, becoming the 24th woman in the history of the WTA to hold the top spot.

The top-seeded Czech, who saved a match point in her third-round win, showed some jitters early.

"I had set point in first set. Some breaks in the second," Pliskova said. "Some break chances. I think she played very well. I think she can play much worse than she was playing today.

"I can play much better than I was playing today. I didn't feel the best, again. But with this game, I think you never gonna feel the best with the game what she's playing. A lot of good serves, a lot of fast shots from the baseline. There is not much sometimes you can do wrong.

"But anyway, I got my chances. I didn't make it. So that's it.quot;

Pliskova misfired on a pair of forehands facing triple break point. Vandeweghe rapped a forehand winner breaking for 2-1 eight minutes into the match.

The lone Top 8 seed to reach the last eight powered through her most convincing hold at love for 3-4.

The New York City-born Vandeweghe grew up in California, but like fellow New York native John McEnroe, she’s not shy about emotive expression.

A double fault spiked a flash of temper as Vandeweghe swiped her racquet against the court cracking its hoop in the eighth game.

Staring down the outburst evenly, Pliskova curled a sharp-angled forehand crosscourt breaking to even after eight games.

Between points, the stoic Pliskova strides with the straight back of a woman who could balance a bottle of Gatorade on her head while unloading forehands.

In contrast, the fiery Vandeweghe often vents between points barking at her box, tossing her racquet around or banging her palm off her leg in a physical release of frustration.

A swath of sweat soaked the back of Vandeweghe’s green dress as she served to stay in the set. Pliskova made her play and drew a netted backhand for set point.

The 20th seed saved it with a bold backhand into the corner.

Stinging a backhand down the line, Vandeweghe leveled at 5-all with a scream.




The depth of Vandeweghe’s drives combined with Pliskova suddenly struggling to clear the net helped the American burst to a 5-2 tie break lead.

Vandeweghe sealed the 54-minute opener when Pliskova scattered a forehand return wide. The disgruntled Czech, typically so calm on court, bounced her Babolat racquet off the court in visible frustration of a woman rushed right out of a tight set.




Straddling the baseline, Vandeweghe went after the Pliskova second serve rattling out successive forehand errors for the break and a 3-1 second-set lead.

Rocketing a 110 mph missile down the middle, Vandeweghe denied a second break point. But she put a backhand into the net gifting back the break. A Vandeweghe forehand clinched the third straight break for 4-2.

Empowered, Vandeweghe invoked a firm hold for 5-2.

Serving for the semifinals, Vandeweghe dodged break point when Pliskova flattened a running forehand into net. Measuring a mid-court forehand, Vandeweghe waited for her opponent to move then cracked it crosscourt for match point but failed to find the court with a forehand.




Spreading the court, Vandeweghe slid another forehand winner down the line for a second match point.

This time, a 103 mph serve drew a netted return ending it in 94 minutes. Vandeweghe dropped to her knees in joy then trotted over to her support box to high-five her family and coach Pat Cash.


 

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