Why only Serena can beat Serena at the US Open
Without a Grand Slam win since the 2017 season-opening Australian Open and just one Major shy of Margaret Court’s tally of 24, Serena Williams’ hunger is without question, but will she once again bite her own head off at Flushing Meadows?
Following the joy of becoming a mother two years ago, it has subsequently been anything but enjoyable for Serena Williams, at least on the tennis court anyway. Overcoming postpartum depression, she made it final of a Grand Slam thrice since then, but none of them converted to victory, making the wait for an elusive all-time record-tying 24th Major that much more agonising.
Also, the way those finals ended added nothing but further misery and frustration, particularly the nasty turn of events at the most recent US Open final.
We saw the ugliest side of Serena Williams (and her fans) during that match, as she engaged in a series of verbal barrages with umpire Carlos Ramos, who caught her coach giving her hand signals. Three violations later, she was penalised, costing her a game. Her fans made the atmosphere worse by booing the helpless Naomi Osaka, who eventually went on to beat her idol and take a career-first Slam.
This year, there’s no Ramos, who’s been barred from umpiring her matches, and for her part, Serena has been undergoing therapy sessions to temper and channel her intensity into more productive pathways.
On the court, she’s been more composed in her approach and finishes. Sure, being a ‘full-time mom’ as she calls herself and three years shy of 40 isn’t exactly working in her favour. But you’d be hard-pressed to tell that if you saw her win the semi-final against Elina Svitolina on Thursday (September 5).
As the 6-3, 6-1 score suggests, Williams’ 101st victory at Flushing Meadows was as clinical a win as could be. She paced around like a woman in her mid-20s and walloped the ball with her trademark fury, never once allowing Svitolina the slightest chance of getting into a comfort zone. She forced Svitolina into letting two break points slip, and when it came time for Serena’s serve, the one time the Ukraininan got up to 40-0, she let it slip and never managed to claw her way back.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 6, 2019
In her last Grand Slam final, she was soundly beaten by Simona Halep at Wimbledon back in June, but a knee injury had robbed her of critical training and preparation.
On Saturday (September 7), she will face off against compatriot Bianca Andreescu, who at a tender 19 years old, is nearly half her age, but has already faced Serena in a final, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last month. Back spasms forced Williams to retire on that day, leading to a warm consolation by her opponent that went viral.
Now, having never made it past the qualifying stage at a Grand Slam, she will face up against arguably the greatest female tennis player gunning for her 24th Major, both women backed up by their supporters at home. On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to argue against Williams in this competition but that is all dependent on whether she beats herself or not.