Serena Williams hails Tiger Woods’ influence as she continues her US Open run with a 2-0 lead. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Serena Williams was out in San Jose, California, to play a practice match for the U.S. Open team against Australia earlier this month when she heard what she is convinced was an ovation from the crowd. It was not yet a big game with a lot of hype and anticipation, just a practice match.
But when she went to find out what was going on, she was overwhelmed to hear how the crowd had reacted to what might be a sign of good things to come.
“They were shouting, screaming… ‘No. No. No. No,'” she said. “And I was like, ‘OK.’ And I left it there and I just went on with it.”
Williams had some big moments at Wimbledon in June, including beating a long-time rival, Kim Clijsters, in the semifinals. Now she has shown that she can win in big matches and against top players in big tournaments.
While she and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, both played down the importance of winning the U.S. Open in San Jose, it was clear that the crowd did not take anything for granted after that match.
The fact that she came back to defeat Clijsters on a hard court on a run, and then beat Serena Williams’ closest rival, Victoria Azarenka in the round of 16 of the Olympics, was a sign of things to come.
While the match with Williams certainly was not as tough as the one that the U.S. women’s team beat Russia in the final of the Olympic team competition, she was not beaten with her usual, dominant ground strokes, like the one she had used to win Wimbledon.
This time, she had to outplay Azarenka and was not as fortunate to be able to move well on grass like she was on hard courts. Her strategy also involved playing a strong defensive game against her former rival, which enabled her to take the opening set fairly comfortably. Her game also was more varied and allowed her to adapt to a tougher and longer match, as well as a faster and faster pace.
“I felt very confident and I wasn’t playing at my best as usual,” Serena said, “but I knew that I had to be