The Duchess of Sussex’s presence in the Royal Box for the ladies’ final day now confirmed, Queen Serena of the Wimbledon Centre Court will go from Royal Wedding guest to being the star of what, seven times before, has been her own show.
But this situation is so different in so many ways. After the serious complications and multiple surgeries that followed the birth of her 10-month-old Olympia there was a time she could not walk as far as her letter-box. “I almost didn’t make it, to be honest,’’ said Williams. Not just back to Wimbledon. Or to collect the mail. Not at all.
Thus, the 36-year-old oscillates between feeling slightly miffed that her achievement in reaching another Wimbledon final is no great surprise, and the alternative, which can be annoying, as well.
“It’s like, ‘c’mon guys, this is pretty awesome’,’’ Williams said after beating No.13 seed Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-4. “To hear people say, ‘Oh, she’s a favourite’, it’s like, the last 16 months, I’ve played four tournaments, and was carrying another human half that time. It’s interesting.
“But when I wasn’t a favourite, I was kind of upset about that. It’s like, ‘c’mon, what can make me happy?’ Have to figure out which I prefer.’’
Baby steps were one theme of her media conference; hers and Olympia’s, the latter apparently trying to move a little faster than she is able. Williams says she still feels like she is in “that baby step place”, although each time she plays she wants to take giant strides.
Still, having often spoken of the pressure she put on herself to win an 18th major, Williams says she has not given a thought this Fortnight to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
“I don’t want to limit myself. I think that’s what I was doing in the past, I was limiting myself,’’ she said. “It’s just a number. I want to get as many as I can, starting with… I still have a match to win, so I’m not even there yet.’’
The mental and emotional side of her recovery has taken the longest, it seems. “For me, having to deal with PEs, pulmonary embolisms, is more mentally challenging because I don’t know if I have a pain in my leg, I automatically go to the worst-case scenario.
“That is not very easy. I mean, even this week, I had a pain in my leg, and I went to the worst-case scenario: Oh, my God, I have a PE in my leg. It’s mentally very, very difficult. I didn’t know I would have such kind of traumatic thoughts, especially now that I have a daughter. I want to be around as long as I can to support her. It’s interesting how that mental recovery is actually taking much longer than I ever expected.’’
Performance-wise, she imagined success would come earlier than it has, but there were early setbacks at Indian Wells and Miami, and then the pectoral injury suffered at Roland-Garros. “I think mostly the hardest part was mentally letting go of a lot of mommy things in order to fully be 100 per cent on to tennis.’’
Goerges considered the fact that Williams brought her “A game’’ to their second contest in five weeks was a sign of respect. That is something the improved German believes she has earned by passing a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time.
“I felt I played great. I’m closer there. That’s something which matters for me,’’ said Goerges, who had to start by ending a string of five consecutive first round losses at the All England Club.
“I’ve never went to that stage in a Grand Slam yet before. I think I’m working towards it to achieve it another time. Playing more and more these kind of players, I think Serena is the one, who you want to play, who you want to get the experience from.’’
Goerges leaves, she said, with her head held high, proud of the way she had adapted her powerful game to the vagaries of grass. “I think I deserve that spot here. I was waiting for it a long time. Hopefully I don’t need to wait that long again to reach that stage again.’’
The last stage of this one will feature Williams and Angelique Kerber in a rematch of the 2016 final the American won 7-5, 6-3.
“I think grass is her best surface,’’ Williams said of the 2016 Australian and US Open winner. “She plays so well here. She knows how to play on this court. She does it well. It’s her second final in three years, is that right? That’s wildly impressive. Believe me, I know she wants to go out there and win. So do I. I think it will be just like the last final, it will be a really good final. Hopefully it will be a good result.’’
Williams will have at least one ally in the Royal Box, her friend, the former Meghan Markle: official royalty watching a tennis monarch.
“We’ve always had a wonderful friendship,’’ Williams said of the Duchess. “Every year for a couple years she comes out to Wimbledon, has supported me. Now she’s supporting me in a different role. But our friendship is still exactly the same. We always have supported each other, just been there for each other through a lot. I look forward to it.’’
Source: Linda Pearce|| Wimbledon