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No Place Like Home: Serena's US Open journey
The American is the all-time match wins leader at the US Open.
Published Sep 05, 2020
Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career. (Photos: Getty Images)
As the US Open plays on, Serena Williams will be trying to win her record-setting 24th Grand Slam singles title. And if she were to accomplish that in New York, the American would be coming full circle. After all, it’s the tournament where her march toward history began as she became one of its most prolific champions.
Making her Open debut in 1998 as a 16-year-old, Williams reaches the third round. While she was unable to replicate the feat of her big sister Venus’ run to the final the year prior, she went a step further than her sibling in 1999.
Entering the tournament as the No. 7 seed, Williams beat three of the top four players in her last three matches, including world No. 1 Martina Hingis, who stopped Venus in ‘97, in the final. With the win, Serena became the first Black woman in the Open Era to win a singles title. She and Venus would go on to win the doubles title, too, to go along with her mixed title won in 1998 with Max Mirnyi.
Her attempt at a title defense in 2000 came to an end in the quarterfinals and she lost the 2001 final to Venus. Having re-entered the major winner’s circle at the 2002 French Open and then again at Wimbledon, Serena captured her third major in a row in New York, topping Venus in the final and running her record for the year against her sister to 3-0 at that level.
Injuries and a wave of future Hall of Famers stalled Williams’ progress at her home Slam over the next several years. It wasn’t until 2008 when she was crowned the queen of Queens again: The American claimed the title without dropping a set, as she beat Jelena Jankovic in the final and returned to the top of the rankings for the first time in five years.
An absence from the Open in 2010 was bookended by a semifinal finish in ’09 and a final in ’11, when she lost to Samantha Stosur. After a slow start to her 2012 campaign at the biggest tournaments, Williams caught fire over the summer, winning Wimbledon, the Summer Olympics and the US Open, beating Victoria Azarenka in the final in New York.
In 2013, Williams achieved a first milestone in a career full of them: She defended her US Open title, again beating Azarenka in the championship match. After failing to make it past the fourth round at the first three majors in 2014, Williams righted the ship in New York as she claimed the title without dropping a set—topping Caroline Wozniacki in the final—and tied Chris Evert with six singles championships.
While she’s mostly thrived at the US Open, Williams has had her share of disappointment there. The ’14 victory kicked off her second “Serena Slam,” but her efforts to win the calendar-year Grand Slam came to a surprise halt in 2015 in the semifinals at the hands of Roberta Vinci. And there have been moments mired in controversy: There was the loss to Jennifer Capriati in 2004, in which multiple calls went against her. And there have been rows with umpires, including the 2018 final, which she lost to Naomi Osaka.
Showing her resilience at this late stage of her career, Williams reached the championship matcagain last year, only to lose to the Canadian teenager, Bianca Andreescu.
Over the course of her career, though, Williams has shown she knows how to handle whatever comes her way in New York as she tries to make more history at the tournament.