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Serena Williams- Fitter, sharper, and ready to finally win 24th Grand Slam title

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 7 Sep 2019
  • Serena Williams' search for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title could end on Saturday as she takes on Bianca Andreescu in the 2019 US Open final
  • Williams has lost her last three Grand Slam finals, but she has looked in much better shape over the last fortnight
Serena Williams (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

After a series of near misses, Serena Williams gets another chance equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles on Saturday, when she takes on Canadian teenager, Bianca Andreescu in the US Open final. 

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Williams has a terrific record in Grand Slam finals, but her excellence has been diluted in the last couple of seasons. Before the start of 2018, she had lost just five major finals across 19 years, but the 38-year-old has failed to win her last three championship matches, all inside the last two seasons.

What went wrong in those finals, and what must the legendary American do differently if she is to overturn those results on Saturday?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the quality of tennis played by Serena’s opponents in these finals- Angelique Kerber was brilliant at Wimbledon in 2018; Naomi Osaka was incredibly ice cool under immense pressure at Flushing Meadows last season, while Simona Halep played the match of her life at Wimbledon a couple of months ago- but as well as Kerber, Osaka and Halep played, Serena never really reached the heights she is capable of attaining. And that is perfectly understandable…

The fact that she made a couple Grand Slam finals within seven months of her return from maternity leave, at 37 years old, is actually crazy, and it is not abnormal for her to fall just short against an inspired opponent. She couldn’t possibly have been anything close to full fitness and match sharpness in those Grand Slam finals, especially the two she contested last season. Williams has also had her fair share of injuries since her comeback, all of which have contributed greatly to her Grand Slam final struggles.


Wimbledon 2018 was her fourth tournament after her return from child birth, and her first event since she pulled out of a fourth round meeting with Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros due to a shoulder injury. She did not play much between Wimbledon and US Open, as she went 1-2 in San Jose and Cincinnati, including an infamous 6-1 6-0 loss to Johanna Konta in San Jose- far from ideal preparation for a major tournament.

It was a similar situation leading up to Wimbledon this year. Serena had been bothered by a knee injury for most of the season, and arrived the All England Club on the back of a third round exit to Sofia Kenin at Roland Garros. Williams has admitted that she should not have played the French Open, which by extension, meant she wasn’t entirely ready for Wimbledon.

Serena’s aura, power, and unrivalled will to win are good enough to get her past most players on the tour, but when she is not at her best, there’s was always a chance that one opponent will get into a groove somewhere down the line, and expose her flaws. It has happened in the last three major finals.

Serena Williams has never hidden her desire to match and surpass Margaret Court’s record haul of major titles- and while this is not a terrible thing, far from that, it has manifested in a negative way in her most recent Grand Slam finals. She has been edgy, nervous, and panicky under pressure- a lot of it self-inflicted. As a result, she has been unable to find her best form, and find solutions to problems posed by her opponents in these finals.

If she is to get over the line against Andreescu on Saturday, she must find a way to calm down, especially when her opponent is playing well, and trust that she has the game to take out anyone on the tour.

“…there's a lot of things that I've learned in the past, but I just have to go out there, above all, most of all, just stay relaxed”, Williams admitted ahead of Saturday’s final.

I do believe that Williams is in a much better shape to win the 2019 US Open than she was in any of her last three Grand Slam finals. She’s had a proper warm-up tournament in Toronto- she was unfortunate with the injury in the final- and has been playing some of her best tennis since her return from maternity leave in New York.

The great American is striking the ball cleaner than she has done at any point in the last two years, and more importantly, her movement has been terrific in these last two weeks. Not even a nasty fall against Petra Martic in the fourth round has slowed her down, as she has responded with crushing victories over Qiang Wang and Elina Svitolina in the quarter and semi-finals. She just looks better prepared for this final relative to the previous three.

She is fitter, tougher, sharper, and could finally land that 24th major title on Saturday evening in New York.

Serena Williams vs Bianca Andreescu is live from New York on Saturday, 7 September from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST. Read the full preview here.
 


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Serena Williams- Fitter, sharper, and ready to finally win 24th Grand Slam title

Serena Williams' search for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title could end on Saturday as she takes on Bianca Andreescu in the 2019 US Open final.

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