By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) -American Madison Keys rode the home crowd’s support at Arthur Ashe Stadium to swat aside Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-4 and reach the U.S. Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

Keys, runner-up in 2017, has suffered a handful of early exits at her home Grand Slam in recent years but has excelled in the 2023 edition and is flourishing under the bright lights at Flushing Meadows.

She next faces second seed Aryna Sabalenka, who dispatched China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-1 6-4 earlier on Wednesday to reach her fifth Grand Slam semi-final in a row.

“I just love it here. I love playing here. In front of a home crowd you can never feel like you can’t get out of any situation,” said Keys, who fended off all nine break points she faced during the match.

“I knew I was going to have to keep trying to get to the net, be aggressive.”

The match got off to an unusual start as the chair umpire was forced to stop play midway through the first game for several minutes when a spectator needed medical attention.

Keys was not rattled by the incident and began her demolition once play resumed, breaking Czech Vondrousova to love in the second game and converting on another break point chance with a fine forehand winner in the fourth.

Ninth seed Vondrousova had withdrawn from her doubles campaign after a three-setter against Peyton Stearns in the fourth round left her with a sore arm and she looked like she lacked firepower against Keys.

And while she stepped up a gear in the second set, improving her serve considerably, she was still unable to seize the momentum, failing to convert on five break points in the eighth game alone.

Keys broke her opponent in the ninth game and let out a cheer as she forced Vondrousova into a backhand error on match point.

Vondrousova, who served up five double faults in the match, made no excuses for her defeat and told reporters that Keys was simply too good.

“I don’t think it was nerves. I played, you know, some good points. It wasn’t enough,” she added.

“I think from her side it was so good on the serve. Yeah, was just trying to find a way. Just all credits to her today.”

Keys expects a tough challenge from Sabalenka, who beat her in the Wimbledon quarter-finals and is assured of the world number one spot when the rankings are updated after the tournament.

“Almost a completely different match tomorrow,” said Keys. “It’s going to be a lot of hard hitting, not a lot of long points.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Kim Coghill, Peter Rutherford)

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