When the draw for the ladies’ singles was revealed, it looked as if Serena Williams – seeded No.25 at the discretion of the All England Club – was given a relatively kind path.
By the time the first round matches had concluded, four seeds from her quarter of the draw had already fallen: her possible third round opponent No.5 seed Elina Svitolina, potential fourth round foe, last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist and No.19 seed Magdalena Rybarikova, and possible quarter-final rivals No.16 CoCo Vandeweghe and No.21 seed Anastasija Sevastova.
In her opener, Williams was tested but came through unscathed against Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus in straight sets.
“I don’t think I was at my best today, but I’m practising much better,” said Williams. The American had taken a complete break from serving for three weeks after withdrawing from her Roland-Garros fourth round match with a pectoral injury, and only started serving when she got to London ahead of Wimbledon.
In the second round, more seeds in Williams’ vicinity dropped out, led by world No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, who could have faced her in the quarter-finals. Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, eased past Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova.
“I think I just played better. I served a little more consistent. Still want to work on getting my first serves in more. Overall it’s definitely a little bit better than the first round,” said the 36-year-old of her second test.
In round three, Williams’ possible last-16 opponent Madison Keys, the No.10 seed, joined the exodus. In the same half of her draw, Serena’s sister Venus, the No.9 seed, lost to No.20 Kiki Bertens.
That leaves Williams without a seed in sight until the semi-finals, if she makes it. The American 23-time major winner fought well in her third round against crafty Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, to move into the second week in straight sets.
If Williams does make the semis, she is most likely to meet Karolina Pliskova, the sole remaining top 10 player in the draw.
Williams’ path has allowed her to step up her game gradually so far at The Championships but she doesn’t believe that the carnage among the seeds will affect her chances one way or the other at Wimbledon.
“I think a lot of the top players are losing, but they’re losing to girls that are playing outstanding. I think, if anything, it shows me every moment that I can’t underestimate any of these ladies. They are just going out there swinging and playing for broke,” assured Williams.
While she acknowledges that she provides an intimidation factor that could hinder her opponents’ performance, Williams also feels players particularly raise their level each time they face her.
“Every single match I play, whether I’m coming back from a baby or surgery, it doesn’t matter, these young ladies, they bring a game that I’ve never seen before,” she said.
“It’s interesting because I don’t even scout as much because when I watch them play, it’s a totally different game than when they play me. That’s what makes me great: I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater.”
Williams added: “There’s definitely that aura, that kind of thing of playing Serena. At the same time these women are proud. They don’t go out there and say, ‘I’m going to lose because I’m playing Serena’. They go out there and say, ‘I’m going to play hard because I’m playing Serena’. That’s what makes these ladies so strong. It’s admirable because they don’t think, ‘I have to lose’. They think, ‘I have a chance’. That’s what they do.”
Despite all that, it’s hard to imagine anyone stopping Williams before the semi-finals.
Source: Reem Abulleil|| Wimbledon