Will it be third time’s the charm for Serena Williams? The American finds herself once again just a win away from tying Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles, after the 37-year-old cruised past Barbora Strycova, 6-1, 6-2 in the Wimbledon semifinals on Thursday.
Bidding to become the fourth WTA player to win a Grand Slam after becoming a mom, she will meet fellow former No. 1 Simona Halep—her first Top 10 foe in the tournament—in Saturday’s championship match. Serena is 9-1 against the Romanian, who routed Elina Svitolina in straight sets earlier today. The seven-time Wimbledon champion also won their last encounter, in the fourth round of Australian Open in January when Halep was the world No. 1.
"Can't underestimate her. She's like a little powerhouse," Serena said of Halep in her post-match press conference. "She finished the year No. 1 twice in a row. I feel like she's back. She wants to prove that she can do it again."
Serena has struggled in the latter stages of majors in the last year—losing to Angelique Kerber in the 2018 Wimbledon final, Naomi Osaka in a controversial 2018 US Open final, and Karolina Pliskova in the 2019 Australian Open quarterfinal. After feeling like she initially had to find immediate success, upon reflection, Serena took pride in what she was able to achieve a year ago.
"Looking back, to even be in those two finals last year was unbelievable. Now I'm in a different place," Serena said. "I just am more calm. Instead of having nothing to lose, I feel like I have things to lose, but I also have nothing to lose. It's like I'm in the middle. I really want to do it. I'm in a different place because I wasn't really playing a month ago, like, at all. So it's all kind of coming together. I can't really put how I'm taking it."
After having her back against the wall in her quarterfinal match against fellow American Alison Riske, Serena had no trouble against Strycova, a player she’s now beaten four straight times. At 33 and 53 Slams later, the Czech was playing her first-ever semifinal, while the 23-time major champion was contesting her 37th.
Serena, who had won all their meetings at Grand Slams, jumped ahead with two breaks to take down the first set in just 27 minutes. Strycova’s old school grass-court tennis that had bothered seeds Kiki Bertens and Johanna Konta in the previous matches, was a non-factor against the No. 11 seed. She just didn’t have enough in her shots to put a make a dent.
The American secured a double break lead in the second set and closed out the match in 59 minutes to reach her 11th final at the All England Club. Serena finished with 27 winners to 11 unforced errors and credited her mixed doubles experiences with Andy Murray in providing confidence when coming forward.
"I kept telling you guys I thought the doubles would help me. I really think it did. I don't attack the net that much. I tried to and I want to," said Serena. "I know when I play doubles here with Venus, it definitely helps my singles game. I was really keen to play mixed here."