Serena Williams is back in the final at Flushing Meadows after last year's controversial showdown with Naomi Osaka. — AFP Photo
NEW YORK — Serena Williams cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday as she brushed aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 to claim a record-equaling 101st win at Flushing Meadows.
Williams is seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title to match Margaret Court's all-time record and will face either Belinda Bencic or Bianca Andreescu on Saturday in her bid for a record seventh US Open triumph.
The 37-year-old American, who made her US Open debut in 1998, drew level with Chris Evert for the most wins in tournament history after advancing to a 33rd major final.
"It's impressive. To be in any club with Chrissie is awesome," said Williams, who lifted her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open.
"I couldn't have done it without this crowd. You guys have literally been here for 20 years and I'm still here."
Williams fought off six break points across her opening three service games before finding her rhythm to dispatch Wimbledon semi-finalist Svitolina in 70 minutes, hitting 34 winners against just 20 unforced errors.
"I know how (Svitolina) can play, she's such a good player. Obviously two semis in a row is really hard to do and I just wanted to not get off to a slow start and I wanted to hang on in there."
Williams, who was beaten by Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final in July, returns to the championship match in New York a year on from her infamous meltdown in a loss to Naomi Osaka overshadowed by controversy.
She is chasing a first Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open and hasn't won the US Open since 2014.
Svitolina, 24, was attempting to become just the second Ukrainian to play in a Grand Slam singles final after Andrei Medvedev, who lost in five sets to Andre Agassi at the 1999 French Open.
Svitolina, who accounted for two-time former US Open champion Venus Williams and 2017 runner-up Madison Keys en route to the last four, put Williams under early pressure at Arthur Ashe Stadium but wilted as her rival hit her groove.
After carving out three break points in the opening game, Svitlona promptly dropped her own serve, with three more opportunities to hit back passing her by in game five as the vastly more experienced Williams dominated the key points.
"On the important moments, she step up, always step up, always brings her best game," Svitolina said.
"She knows what she has to do. She has unbelievable strength. She gives lots of power. There's lots of power behind her shots all the time. That's what makes her unbelievable, legendary tennis player."
Williams backed up a quarter-final statement win over Wang by defeating Svitolina for the fifth time in six attempts, avenging her loss at the 2016 Olympics in their most recent encounter.
She has featured at more Slams (73) than the other three semi-finalists combined. Williams also now owns the largest gap between first Slam final appearance and most recent -- at 19 years and 362 days.
Swiss 13th seed Bencic and Canadian teen Andreescu, the 15th seed, contest the other last-four clash in a meeting between two first-time Slam semi-finalists.
No Swiss woman has won a Grand Slam singles title since Martina Hingis captured the 1999 Australian Open, while 19-year-old Andreescu is trying to become the first Canadian singles Grand Slam champion.
Bencic, 22, has battled back from 2017 left wrist surgery and other injuries that slowed her career for most of two seasons, winning her third WTA title in February at Dubai.
Andreescu also hopes to become the fourth first-time Slam champion in five years to win the US Open women's title. — AFP