America's only ray of hope

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NEW YORK, September 8 – As the last American singles player in the US Open, Venus Williams carries all the hopes of the host nation, although she does not want to look at it that way."If I go out there and feel like that, I don’t think I would even be able to raise my arm," Williams said. "My expectations are enough to deal with."

Third seed Williams continued her mastery over French Open champion Francesca Schiavone on Tuesday, outlasting the Italian sixth seed 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the year’s last Grand Slam event.

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion and two-time US Open winner, improved to 8-0 lifetime against Schiavone, although the Italian said she let a great chance slip away to reach her first US Open final four.

"I think I lost a little bit more this match than she won," Schiavone said. "It’s a lot of disappointment. I have the quality and the chance to beat her."

Williams, who became the first 30-year-old woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since France’s Mary Pierce at the 2005 US Open, has not lost a set in the Flushing Meadows fortnight.

Williams, who had not reached a Slam semi-final since last year’s Wimbledon, fared far better in battling the swirling winds of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I was trying to find a rhythm in the wind to get on top of it," Williams said. "It was challenging. I don’t think either of us were able to play our exact normal game.

"I felt like when the stakes were higher I was able to raise my game. She was feisty. I had to keep her at bay."

Schiavone said she thinks Williams does not like to play her because of her versatile style, even though it has never been enough to beat the American.

"I have always the chance to beat her. That’s the way I want to keep going and one day I will win the most important points," Schiavone said.

"In the most important moments, she’s always there. I need to play better in those moments in order to beat her."

Williams said she actually enjoys facing Schiavone.

"I like seeing my name next to her name," Williams said. "I really do enjoy our matchups, obviously because I usually come out on top."

Schiavone and Williams exchanged breaks to open the match and each double faulted to surrender another break on the way to a first-set tie-breaker.

Williams jumped ahead 4-0, dropped the next four points and was level at 5-5 after a forehand volley winner by Schiavone. But the Italian then swatted a pair of forehands beyond the baseline to hand Williams the first set.

"It was so close for the last of the set," Schiavone said.

"She played a little bit better in that moment and I couldn’t catch my opportunity. Then I played at a very high level and came back. We got to 5-5 and I missed two balls and that was it."

In the second set, Williams broke Schiavone for a 3-1 lead but the Italian broke back in the seventh game when Williams netted a backhand, starting a run of three service breaks in a row, the last when Williams served for the match.

"She served so good," Schiavone said. "With wind she has more chance than me. When I was serving against the wind, I was trying but Venus was on the second floor and serving with more power."

The end came six minutes shy of two hours when Schiavone swatted a forehand long to surrender a break in the last game.

Schiavone failed to become Italy’s first US Open semi-finalist, woman or man, since Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.

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