Serena Williams stunned in US Open semis by Roberta Vinci, Slam bid ends

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NEW YORK (AP) -- For Serena Williams' first 26 matches at major tournaments in 2015, no deficit was too daunting, no opponent too troublesome, no victory too far from reach.

She was unbeaten and, seemingly, unbeatable, nearing the first Grand Slam in more than a quarter-century. All Williams needed was two more wins to pull off that rare feat. And yet, against an unseeded and unheralded opponent in the U.S. Open semifinals, she faltered. Her pursuit of history ended, oh so close.

In one of the most significant upsets in the history of tennis, Williams finally found a hole too big to climb out of, losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 Friday at Flushing Meadows to 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci of Italy.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointed I am," Williams said.

Vinci had never before played in a Grand Slam semifinal. She had never so much as taken a set off Williams, much less won, in four previous matchups.

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Serena Williams stunned in US Open semis by Roberta Vinci, Slam bid ends
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States returns a shot to Venus Williams of the United States during their Women's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Venus Williams of the United States in their Women's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Serena Williams reacts after winning a point against Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams waves to the crowd after beating Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams (L) of the United States hugs Venus Williams of the United States after defeating her during their Women's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Serena Williams returns a shot to Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Serena Williams chases down shot from Bethanie Mattek-Sands during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Serena Williams reacts after a shot against Bethanie Mattek-Sands during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams, of the United States, serves to Madison Keys, of the United States, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Serena Williams, of the United States, waves to fans after winning her match with Madison Keys, of the United States, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Serena Williams plays Madison Keys during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, in New York.(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Serena Williams, left, and Venus Williams pose for a photo before playing each other in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams challenges a call during a quarterfinal match against Venus Williams at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams reacts after losing a point to Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams returns a shot to Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Serena Williams falls to the court as she follows through on a shot to Venus Williams during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Venus Williams of the United States in their Women's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Venus Williams of the United States in their Women's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Serena Williams of the US reacts to winning a point against her sister Venus Williams during their 2015 US Open Women's singles quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05: Serena Williams in action against Madison Keys of the United States (not seen) of the United States during their Women's Singles Fourth Round match on Day Seven of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on September 6, 2015. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06: Serena Williams of the United States serves to Madison Keys of the United States during their Women's Singles Fourth Round match on Day Seven of the 2015 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for the USTA)
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But her style, full of slices and net rushes, kept Williams off-balance enough to cause problems and prevent the 33-year-old American from becoming the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season. Williams had been pushed to the limit before - this was her 12th three-setter in a major this season - but had managed to win titles at the Australian Open on hard courts in January, the French Open on clay courts in June, and Wimbledon on grass courts in July.

This time, for once, the No. 1-ranked Williams could not pull it out, undone by 40 unforced errors, twice as many as Vinci. That negated the impact of Williams' 16 aces, including one at 126 mph.

"I thought she played the best tennis in her career," Williams said about Vinci. "She played, literally, out of her mind."

Yes, remarkably, instead of Williams, it will be Vinci participating in Saturday's final. She will face another Italian making her Grand Slam final debut: 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, who eliminated No. 2 Simona Halep 6-1, 6-3 earlier Friday.

Pennetta, 33, and Vinci, 32, have known each other since they were kids, having grown up in towns about 40 miles (65 kilometers) apart on opposite coasts of Puglia, a region in the southeastern heel of Italy's boot-shaped peninsula.

Now they will face each other all these years later, halfway around the world, in a stadium in New York - with a Grand Slam trophy on the line. An intriguing story line and big stakes, to be sure, but nothing compared to what Williams was chasing: a perfect Grand Slam season.

After all, not only was she 26-0 at those tournaments this year, but her winning streak at majors actually was 33 matches entering Friday, because she won last year's U.S. Open, too.

If she had managed to win a fifth consecutive major title, Williams would have raised her total to 22, equaling Graf for the most in the Open era, which began in 1968, and second-most in history behind Margaret Court's 24.


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