Serena Williams oust Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1 at the 2019 US Open semi final reach her fourth major final since becoming a mother two years ago.
The 37-year-old American lost the previous three, including that acrimonious match with Naomi Osaka in 2018, as well as two Wimbledon finals, meaning she remains one short of Margaret Court’s record tally of 24 Grand Slams and does not look like falling short again.
Serena received a standing ovation after the first set, taking out all her angst on the yellow ball. She zoomed about the court like she was 27 years and not a 37-year-old mother of a 2-year-old.
“That’s why she is who she is,’’ Svitolina said. “You are playing in front of the best tennis player in the world. If you don’t take it, she just grabs it and there’s no chance to take it back. In the important moments, she always step up, always brings her best game.”
Not always. We can think of several other times in Flushing when she didn’t step up her tennis or her mental game. There were no tantrums, but the worst was the 2015 Open semifinals when she got outsmarted by knuckleballer Roberta Vinci when on track to win the Grand Slam, a sweep of all four majors in a calendar year.
And of course one year ago, Williams was one victory away from the best history you can make in this sport — tying Australian Margaret Court for a record 24 Grand Slam titles.
Serena let it all slip away against Naomi Osaka, melted down in epic fashion after getting a warning/code violation from chair umpire Carlos Ramos because her coach gave her hand signals.
“I think she’s more relaxed this year, feels less pressure,’’ said one person close to the family.
Williams, who saw a therapist after last year’s meltdown, confirmed “I’ve been way more chill.”
Again, she is one win away again from equaling Court, who will not be in attendance. According to industry sources, the Open refuses to invite Court to Flushing Meadows because of public remarks in 2017 she made against the LGBT community.
Billie Jean King supported Serena’s relentless haranguing of Ramos last year and is pulling heavily for history Saturday in the finals.
“It’ll be great if she won this and went on to Australia and broke it,’’ King, who is gay, said on TV. “That’s my prayer.”
Williams admits it has been challenge to be “a full-time mom’’ while chasing Court. There’s been zero titles since she gave birth two years ago.
“My day off isn’t a day off,’’ Williams said of motherhood.
Three times, she’s been one win away from 24 and failed to deliver.
“I would definitely still be playing if I already passed it,’’ Williams said Thursday. “I’ve had so many chances to pass it and to have a lot more. It’s cool.’’
Despite the 34 winners, so many of them spectacularly angled bullets, she claimed this “wasn’t my best tennis.’’
Late in the second set, it didn’t look that way as Serena pulled stuff out of her comfort zone. She did some serve and volley.
“Don’t expect that again,’’ Serena said.