Despite losing first set, Serena never doubted herself against Giorgi

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Serena Williams is just two wins away from winning Wimbledon yet again. (AP)

LONDON—As you might expect from a 36-year-old who played her first Wimbledon 20 years ago, Serena Williams is now simultaneously a competitor and a stateswoman. Following her 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win over 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi, Williams spoke on a variety of topics, including the significance of Billie Jean King, the tragic death of Jana Novotna, the appearance at Wimbledon of various pop culture icons, the challenges of motherhood and the meaning of two of her tennis idols—1990 Wimbledon singles finalist Zina Garrison and Hall of Famer Monica Seles. 

Garrison, said Williams, “looked like me. We didn't see a lot of black players out there. I really liked her.”

Williams’ appreciation of Seles came in handy today versus Giorgi. Like Seles, Giorgi attempts to apply relentless firepower. Unlike Seles, though, the 26-year-old Italian is disturbingly inconsistent, her matches often an atonal smattering of flat drives that are either roped into corners or sprayed past the lines.

The former was the case for most of the first set. Giorgi played convincing tennis, groundstrokes off both sides forcing Williams into trying for too much from the baseline. Serving at 2-3, 15-30, Williams lined a short crosscourt forehand approach shot into the net. Two points later, Giorgi sustained just enough depth, driving a backhand through the middle that put Williams on her heels, eliciting a backhand error. Throughout that opener, Giorgi backed up her serve nicely, fighting off all five break points she saved. 

WATCH—Match point from Serena's win over Giorgi in quarterfinals:

Of course, anyone knows that winning a first set versus Serena Williams is hardly an indication of anything.

Said Williams of her emotions throughout today’s match, “I never felt it was out of my hands. It's weird. I can't describe it. I just felt calm.”

Serving at 1-2 in the second set, Giorgi got in only one first serve in six points. At 30-40, Williams struck a forehand winner. 

This may be strange to say, but at this point, it was nearly impossible to imagine Williams losing. In the third, Giorgi served at 1-all and again served poorly—one first serve in, zero points won. Williams took care of her serve magnificently. Not once over the next two sets did she face a break point.  

It had all been so clinical. Serena Williams was in the semis of Wimbledon for the 11th time. Never mind that this was only her fourth tournament since giving birth. Never mind how difficult her pregnancy had been. Never mind the challenges of balancing life as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and athlete.

As the press conference neared its conclusion, Williams having addressed so many disparate topics, the focus returned to her own motivation.

The answer was simple: “I hate losing. I mean, that's no secret. But you got to lose. I feel like every time I lose, I get better. I think it's important for me to have the losses. Just the fewer the better for me.”

Strokes of Genius is a world-class documentary capturing the historic 13-year rivalry between tennis icons Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It is timed for release as the anticipation crests with Roger as returning champion, 10 years after their famed 2008 Wimbledon championship – an epic match so close and so reflective of their competitive balance that, in the end, the true winner was the sport itself.


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