MASON, Ohio — Serena Williams advanced to the semifinals of a tournament she has never won. Given her history in Cincinnati, she’ll avoid thinking about the long-awaited title.
Williams needed only 58 minutes to beat Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-3 on Friday in the Western & Southern Open, a dominating performance that left her feeling good about her chances the rest of the way. One caveat: She’s felt this way before and lost.
“Sure, I’d love to win here,” Williams said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. I’m trying to stay pressure-free.”
She advanced a day after Novak Djokovic was upset in straight sets by Tommy Robredo, ending his quest for the only Masters title that has eluded him. Djokovic wanted to win the title this week and become the first player to take all nine Masters events.
Instead, it’s Williams who has the chance to go for an elusive title. She lost in the final last year to Victoria Azarenka, dropping a third-set tiebreaker. She has reached the semifinals only one other time (2006).
Williams’ overall performance Friday was one of the best of her six Cincinnati appearances.
“I feel really good,” said Williams, who had seven aces. “I feel I’m really relaxed now.”
The eighth-seeded Jankovic never pressured her. Jankovic didn’t serve an ace and hit only five winners.
“I felt slow,” she said. “For some reason, I was late on shots. I didn’t do anything well. She didn’t have to do a lot. She played her game, and I didn’t do anything to disrupt that.”
Williams will face Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (5) to reach the semifinals in Cincinnati for the first time in seven tries.
Wozniacki made her WTA debut as a 15-year-old wild card in Cincinnati in 2005. She thinks about that moment whenever she returns, though it hasn’t helped her very much on the court.
“Of all the tournaments in the United States, Cincinnati is probably the tournament where I’ve done the least well,” she said. “So it’s nice to take that extra step.”
Radwanska won her 14th career singles title in Montreal on Sunday and had beaten Wozniacki the last three times they played, all on hard courts.
In the men’s bracket, Julien Benneteau upset Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 6-1, 6-2. The third-seeded Wawrinka needed only 20 minutes to win the first set, then unraveled with unforced errors. He had 18 in the third set alone, while Benneteau had just five.
“It was a strange match, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “Even when I was winning the first set, 6-1, I wasn’t playing well. I wasn’t moving well.”
Benneteau reached the semifinals in Cincinnati for the first time by taking advantage of Wawrinka’s erratic serve.
“I can feel that he became tight and he forced and he made some mistakes, some unforced errors that he doesn’t normally do,” Benneteau said.
Sixth-seeded David Ferrer knocked off Robredo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, reaching the semifinals for the first time in 11 appearances in Cincinnati. Fifth-seeded Milos Raonic beat 15th-seeded Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-0 in 57 minutes.