Teenager Yanina Wickmayer is in her first Grand Slam semifinals 10 years after she and her father left behind their lives in Belgium to chase her tennis dream in Florida. The unseeded 19-year-old beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-5, 6-4 at the U.S. Open on Wednesday. She joins fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the semis and is guaranteed to face another teen - ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark or Melanie Oudin of the United States. Ranked 50th, Wickmayer had never made it past the second round at a Grand Slam.
When Wickmayer was 9, her mother died of cancer. Even at that young age, she realized she needed to get away from home, to start anew. Her father, who owned a construction company, quit his job so they could move to the Tampa area. They left behind their house, their cars, their friends.
On Wednesday, Wickmayer blew a 5-3 lead in the first set, then rallied to win the last five games of the second set to close out the 52nd-ranked Bondarenko, the first Grand Slam quarterfinalist from Ukraine.
"I missed a few opportunities," Wickmayer said. "I was pretty mad at myself. I kept fighting and kept hanging in there and just came back."
Late Wednesday, the 19-year-old Wozniacki was to meet 17-year-old unseeded Oudin.
Another unseeded surprise, Clijsters, beat No. 18 Li Na 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday to set up a semifinal against No. 2 Serena Williams, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta.