Serena Williams was far from perfect but delivered when she had to in a 6-4 6-3 win over Elina Svitolina on Saturday to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The world number one struggled with her serve for a second consecutive match and committed 34 unforced errors but moved one win away from defending her title.
Williams will bid to complete a calendar grand slam at the U.S. Open from Aug. 31, a pursuit that kept her early struggles in perspective on Saturday.
“I wanted to not worry about this match, but worry about the next few matches and next few weeks and start playing better for that,” Williams said in an on-court interview.
“I got off to a super slow start today but I started going for it and I think that helped me out.”
The 14th-seeded Svitolina broke Williams’ service early in the opening set, but could not keep the momentum or capitalize on the American’s eight double-faults for the match.
In the second set, two straight backhand winners allowed Williams to break Svitolina’s serve and move to 3-1.
The 20-year-old Ukrainian broke back but Williams responded in kind to take control of the match before sealing it with an ace.
Williams will play the winner of third seed Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic who meet in the late match on Saturday.