Serena Williams is vowing to bounce back from US Open heartbreak when she rocks up at Roland Garros but after blowing her chance to reach 24 titles in New York, is the the end of her Grand Slam dream?
- Serena Williams has confirmed she will compete in the French Open this month
- Williams will be made to stay in designated Paris hotel during rescheduled event
- The American will bid to win her 24th Grand Slam title after US Open defeat
- The 38-year-old lost 1-6 6-3 6-3 to Victoria Azarenka at Flushing Meadows
Serena Williams had to wait nearly eight months for another Grand Slam opportunity, and now two of them have come along at once.
Yet you suspect that she has already missed her biggest, and perhaps final, chance to reach 24 Grand Slam titles.
After going down 1-6 6-3 6-3 to Victoria Azarenka in a high quality US Open semi-final she wasted no time in declaring that she would travel to Europe for the rescheduled French Open, starting later this month.
Serena Williams looks dejected during her US Open semi-final defeat by Victoria Azarenka
‘I feel like other times I’ve been close and I could have done better. Today I felt like I gave a lot,’ she concluded. ‘I’m definitely going to Paris.’
The great American will turn 39 the day before the tournament starts. It will be a further reminder that the clock is ticking closer to midnight on her hopes of matching Margaret Court’s tally of Major titles.
Williams had a lot going for her this fortnight, but was stopped by a stirring performance from Azarenka, who will now meet 2018 winner Naomi Osaka in Saturday’s championship match.
Azarenka produced a fine performance to record a 1-6 6-3 6-3 win at Flushing Meadows
Roland Garros will be far more difficult for her to win, especially given all the things in her favour in New York.
The most obvious of these was the absence of six of the top ten women, but there were others, including having the new Flushing Meadows Laykold surface laid on a court near her Florida home during lockdown.
Her scheduling during the tournament was distinctly generous. All of her six matches were played on Arthur Ashe Stadium and five of those were in daytime sessions, including being given the earlier slot for her quarter final.
Williams may never again encounter such a favourable route to a 24th Grand Slam title
As one of the eight players paying substantially extra for renting private accommodation she was even allowed more passes for her entourage to watch her matches than those staying at the official hotel. Providing they were in the covid-secure bubble they could exceed the normal limit of three, the USTA confirmed to Sportsmail.
The French are insisting that all players will have to stay in the official hotels in Paris, including someone like Williams who owns her own apartment in the city.
The clay court Grand Slam is, in any event, somewhere she has not gone beyond the fourth round in her last two visits. Barring late withdrawals the overall entry is stronger than it has been this fortnight.
Azarenka celebrates during a match in which she showed resilience and expert concentration
Extraordinary athlete though she is, the American paid a price for her previous three matches going the full distance. Against Azarenka she jarred her achilles tendon in the second game of the deciding set, coinciding with having been pulled back from 40-0 to deuce. Her defiant opponent’s concentration survived the ensuing hiatus.
If this proves to have been the last one that got away when she had a serious chance, Williams can rest assured that it does not damage her claims to be the greatest. The depleted fields Court sometimes faced in the Sixties is the context required.
She now leaves the stage to Azarenka, who has also been staying privately, like Osaka, who saw off Jennifer Brady 7-6 3-6 6-3.
Despite the weakened field and all the accompanying strangeness of the tournament it is a final befitting a Grand Slam, featuring two players who have been world number one in the past.
The two players tap rackets as Azarenka reaches a final in which the Belarusian will bid to become only the fourth mother to win a Major in the post-1968 Open Era
It also comes freighted with extra significance for both players due to outside factors. Osaka has become an articulate spokesperson on social matters in the past few months, expressing her views on issues relating to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Although having been largely based in the US from the age of fifteen, Azarenka is among the famous sportspeople from Belarus, which has been going through such upheavals. With family still there she has resisted discussing the situation in any meaningful way.
She will attempt to become only the fourth mother to win a Major in the post-1968 Open Era, joining Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters.
Beating Williams for the first time in eleven attempts at a Grand Slam, with that injection of confidence, will have been the perfect way to prepare.
The men’s semi finals featuring Alex Zverev versus Pablo Carreno Busta, and Dominic Thiem against Daniil Medvedev, were being played last night.
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