NEW YORK – The latest woman to absorb a lopsided loss against Serena Williams thinks the 14-time Grand Slam champion should take on a new challenge.
"Given that men are always quick to say women are a lot worse ... I'd love to see her play in a (lower-level) men's tournament and see how they deal with her. It's easy to talk. On the court, it would be different," the 10th-seeded Sara Errani said.
"I've practiced with a lot of guys ranked 400th or 500th," Errani explained. "I've never played with a man who hits as hard as she does."
Williams wasted little time or energy while overwhelming Italy's Errani 6-1, 6-2 on Friday night to reach the final and move one victory away from a fourth U.S. Open championship. With a 38-6 edge in winners and nine aces to raise her tournament-leading total to 50, Williams needed only 64 minutes to dismiss Errani, the runner-up at the French Open.
Not only has Williams won every set she's played, she's dropped a total of only 19 games across six matches.
Indeed, Errani found some satisfaction in forcing Williams to stay on court for more than an hour.
"My objective," Errani said, "was to prolong the match as much as possible."
In Saturday night's final, the fourth-seeded Williams will face top-ranked Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who beat Maria Sharapova in three sets earlier Friday. Williams is 9-1 against Azarenka.
"Obviously, Victoria wants to win, too," Williams told the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium. "But I'm American, guys. Last one standing. Go USA!"
It was 12 months ago that Williams was stunned in straight sets in the U.S. Open final by Sam Stosur of Australia. Facing a break point at the start of the second set, Williams pounded a forehand she celebrated with her familiar yell of "Come on!" But she screamed as Stosur was reaching to return the shot. The chair umpire awarded the point to Stosur, setting Williams off on a series of insults directed at the official, including, "You're just unattractive inside."
In the 2009 semifinals in New York, Williams launched into her infamous foot-fault tirade and was docked a point on match point, ending a loss to Kim Clijsters.
When a reporter mentioned to Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, that nothing of that sort has happened this year, she replied: "Hey, it's not done yet."
"Well, I did grunt once today, and I thought, 'God, I hope I don't lose the point," Williams said. "Like I said, my goal this year was not to get in any fights."
Everything has gone so smoothly these two weeks.
It's part of a stretch of dominance that has carried her to a 25-1 record since a shocking first-round exit at the French Open in late May, the only time in 49 Grand Slam appearances that Williams lost her opening match.
Her recent surge includes titles at Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
"It's really awesome," Williams said in an on-court interview. "That is what I wanted, and what I dreamed of, all year."
In many ways, her semifinal was a complete mismatch.
Errani had never been past the third round at the U.S. Open — and never past the fourth round at any major tournament — until this year. She reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, then made it all the way to the final at the French Open, losing there to Sharapova.
So Friday's match was only her second major semifinal, Williams' 22nd, and that disparity showed right from the outset.
Errani did not even come within a point of winning a game until she already trailed 5-0. When Williams netted a backhand, Errani got on the board at 5-1.
By then, the outcome was clear.
When Errani finally won a second game, getting to 2-1 in the second set with an inside-out forehand to hold serve, she let out a yelp and skipped toward the sideline.
Errani won the first point of the next game, too, with a well-angled groundstroke winner that made it love-15.
At that moment, it was as if Williams said to herself, "OK, enough is enough."
She won four points in a row to hold for a 3-1 lead like this: 102 mph service winner, 117 mph ace, 114 mph ace, 119 mph ace.
In the next game, Williams dumped a swinging backhand volley into the net and hopped in place, angry with herself, but then restored order to break yet again and make it 4-1.
Williams, who turns 31 on Sept. 26, is trying to become the first 30-year-old woman to win the U.S. Open since Martina Navratilova in 1987. She's also hoping to become the first woman with championships at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open since — yes, you guessed it — Williams did it in 2002.
"She's not unbeatable. No one is unbeatable. Anyone can lose. But if she plays well, she's the best in the world," Errani said. "It's stressful against her. She puts a lot of pressure on you. You need to play quickly. You don't have even a tiny chance to control a point the way you would want to."
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich