Since returning from her hiatus following the birth of her daughter, Serena Williams has already made it to three Grand Slam finals but rather surprisingly, is yet to win a single major. Will it be fourth time lucky for Serena when she takes on Bianca Andreescu in the final at the 2019 US Open? And what happened the previous three times? Here’s a lowdown on what transpired the previous three occasions.
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2018 Wimbledon Final v Angelique Kerber
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2018
This was just the second Grand Slam that Serena Williams participated in following her return. At the French Open she had made it as far as the fourth round which included wins over Ash Barty and Julia Goerges but had to withdraw before the pre-quarterfinal match against Maria Sharapova. At the 2018 Wimbledon, she had come better prepared.
Using a protected ranking this time and seeded 25th, Serena improved as she went along, winning her fourth round match against Evgeniya Rodina 6-2, 6-2, before being stretched to three sets by Camila Girogi in the quarter-finals.
Another win over Goerges followed before she took on Angelique Kerber in the title-decider. Kerber was at her ferocious best, hitting just five unforced errors in a match that lasted just an hour and five minutes and outlasting an exhausted Serena 6-3, 6-3.
It was Kerber’s first Wimbledon title and as she tumbled on to the grass and then walked across to Serena, it must have been a sense of immense relief and satisfaction even as the American’s performance to get that far was lauded.
2018 US Open Final v Naomi Osaka
A final that Serena Williams would probably, just probably want to erase from her memory.
Given all that transpired in that US Open final, it would be fair to say it wasn’t a final that Serena would have predicted in more ways than one.
For one, she was playing the 20th seeded Naomi Osaka, a player who hadn’t made it past the fourth round at any of her previous Grand Slam forays.
There had been a title win at the Indian Wells Open earlier in the year for Osaka but not much else to suggest what was to come. Serena, despite being in the early months of her comeback, went into the match as a heavy favourite.
It turned out to be a letdown in more ways than one.
Serena received a code violation for a coaching penalty – a charge she denied but was accepted by her coach later – and then was docked a point for breaking her racquet. A very irate Serena had a go at the chair umpire for not informing her about the first violation and accusing him of wrongly calling her a cheat.
A few moments later, on a changeover, Serena continued to have a go at the chair umpire and was given her third penalty – a game penalty – following which Osaka served out the match and clinched the title. Probably in circumstances she did not enjoy too much.
2019 Wimbledon Final v Simona Halep
The trend continued. Simona Halep hadn’t won the title at Wimbledon before that and was facing the Grand Slam giant Serena, with the American starting off as a heavy favourite yet again. And much like the previous year’s Wimbledon final, it took an outstanding showing from the Romanian to get past Serena, hitting just three unforced errors in the entire match.
The final lasted 56 minutes, with Halep becoming the first ever Romanian to win a Wimbledon singles title, while Serena, for the third final in a row found that she had no answers to her opponent. Interestingly, Serena, for the third time defeated Goerges in one of the previous matches, overcame Carla Suarez Navarro, Allison Riske and Barbora Strycova in the lead-up to the final.
Halep’s wins came against Victoria Azarenka, Cori Gauff and Elina Svitolina in her lead-up, but this win against Serena was probably the most pleasing given how well she played – a 6-2, 6-2 scoreline doing justice to the difference in quality on the day.
Williams admitted in her post-match chat with the media she would need to figure out a method to win finals, and alluded to the need to play finals outside Grand Slams to get into that rhythm.
Interestingly, Williams was to play in the final at the Rogers Cup last month against Andreescu but pulled out at 3-1 because of an injury. Wonder if that would be a factor going into the 2019 US Open final.