Serena Williams took revenge against Karolina Pliskova to set up a US Open semi-final against Anastasija Sevastova.
Pliskova was the last player to beat Williams in the tournament, in the last four two years ago, and the American made it clear ahead of the match that that contest had played on her mind.
Williams made a nervous start and Pliskova had chances to lead 4-1, but could not take them and paid a heavy price. Williams wobbled again in the second set but served her way out of trouble before clinching a 6-4 6-3 victory.
She said: “I really feel like right now I’m playing free because I was having a baby this time last year. I’m going to enjoy it the best I can.”
Following Sloane Stephens’ exit, Williams is the only former grand slam champion left in the draw and her status as the favourite to win a record-equalling 24th singles title increases with every passing match.
Pliskova’s demise, meanwhile, means none of the top 10 seeds will be present in the final rounds of the tournament for a second consecutive slam.
Williams and Pliskova had only met twice previously, and not since their clash in 2016, and both women seemed to relish this encounter, although the Czech’s enthusiasm waned among a barrage of Williams aces and groundstrokes.
Having staved off more break points at 3-1, Williams began to look more confident and she soon had Pliskova on the back foot.
The eighth seed looked like she would hold for 5-5 when she led 40-0 but back came Williams, playing a superb game to clinch the set.
Pliskova’s head dropped a little and she was 4-0 down in the second set before she won another game, breaking on a Williams double fault.
The nerves returned to the 36-year-old’s play and Pliskova had four chances to get back on serve at 3-4 but, while Williams’ feet may have been letting her down a little, her serve certainly was not.
With that went Pliskova’s chance as Williams moved through to a 13th US Open semi-final, serving three aces in the final game, including on match point.