NEW YORK    -   By no means was Serena Williams perfect at the start of her US Open semifinal. She faced three break points in the opening game and managed to pull it out. She trailed 40-love in the second, then came through again. Another trio of break points arrived later in that initial set. Once more, Williams was up to the task. Soon enough, she was on her way to yet another final at Flushing Meadows -- and yet another shot at Grand Slam singles trophy No. 24.

Williams turned in an increasingly impressive performance for a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night, reaching her fourth final in the past six major tournaments. “To be in yet another final, it seems, honestly, crazy,” said Williams, a six-time US Open champion who will face 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada on Saturday. “But I don’t really expect too much less. “That’s why she is who she is. You are playing in front of the best tennis player in the world,” Svitolina said. “If you don’t take it, she just grabs it. And there’s no chance to take it back.”

Since returning to the tour last season after more than a year away while having a baby, Williams was the runner-up at Wimbledon twice, losing to Angelique Kerber in 2018 and to Simona Halep in July, and was also the runner-up, of course, a year ago at the US Open, losing to Naomi Osaka.

That one in New York was, and forever will be, overshadowed by Williams’ extended argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who docked her a point, then a game -- and was barred by the U.S. Tennis Association from officiating any matches Serena or her older sister, Venus, played in this year’s tournament. Asked whether she prefers to find motivation from that final against Osaka or would rather forget it, Williams stared straight ahead and replied, “I mean, it hasn’t really crossed my mind.” Andreescu, seeded 15th, reached her first major title match in only her fourth appearance at a Slam by eliminating No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-6 (3), 7-5.

“If someone told me a year ago that I would be in the finals of the US Open this year, I would have told them, ‘You’re crazy,’” said Andreescu, who took her semifinal’s last five games after trailing 5-2. She is the first player to get this far in her debut in New York since Venus Williams was the runner-up in 1997. “It’s just surreal,” Andreescu said about the prospect of facing Serena Williams next. “Like, I really don’t know what to say.”

So much of what the younger Williams does nowadays must be seen through the prism of tennis history, and that is certainly the case in this instance. Her 101st career match win at Flushing Meadows tied Chris Evert’s tournament record. “It’s just impressive, I guess,” Williams said. “I don’t think about it. I just come out here and do what I can.”