SERENA WILLIAMS edged closer to history – and then was compared to the greatest of them all.
The American superstar is now just two wins from equalling Aussie Margaret Court’s all-time record major tally of 24 after recovering well to see off Czech Karolina Pliskova in straight sets.
Williams, who has dropped just one set at Flushing Meadows so far in her lucky tutus, was a break down in the first but regained her composure to hit back and eventually triumph 6-4 6-3.
Pliskova beat her in the semi-finals 12 months ago though a repeat was never really on the cards.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner, 36, now faces Latvia’s 19th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the last four after she stunned reigning champ Sloane Stephens earlier in the day.
It was another impressive display which had the home fans cheering – but Williams didn’t know what to say after being told legendary film director Spike Lee, who was interviewed during the game by the host broadcasters ESPN, compared her sporting prowess to Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali.
Williams said: “To be compared to Ali or Jordan, I really have no words.”
“Namely Ali, because he did so much for the sport, he did so much for the world, for everyone. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I want to be remembered for.
“It’s not what I do out here, but how I can inspire people off the court. That’s my dream.”
This match, played once again in the most humid of conditions, was far from straightforward and the American was lucky a slow start didn’t damage her hopes of being in Saturday’s final.
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It would be her first here since 2014 and would ease the pain of losing in the semi’s in 2015 and 2016.
Williams, who is competing in just her eighth tournament since giving birth last year, said: “I felt so bad because everyone out here was cheering and I wasn’t winning and I thought I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to do harder.”
“I really feel like right now I’m playing free because I was having a baby this time last year, so I have nothing to prove. I’m just on my way [back] on the tour and doing the best I can.
“I want to just be able to get past the semis here. It’s been a couple of rough semis for me. But regardless this has been a great road. I’m really excited.”