WATCH: What to expect from Serena Williams in her likely final US Open appearance.


Serena Williams has endured a cruel summer or two over nearly 30 years on tour, and though she began the 2014 US Open swing with a title in Stanford, things weren’t looking particularly auspicious for the world No. 1 as she arrived at the Western & Southern Open, a tournament she’d never won.

Though Stanford was already her fourth title of the season, Williams was going on nearly a year without a major victory, and had endured an especially heartbreaking defeat to French nemesis Alizé Cornet at Wimbledon a month earlier.

“I haven't lost many matches like this where the player was playing unbelievably well,” she said after opening her week with a narrow victory over Samantha Stosur, who beat her at the 2011 US Open final. “Usually sometimes when I lose it's because I'm playing unbelievably bad.”

Serena was similarly below her admittedly high standards days earlier in Montréal, where she suffered her first loss to elder sister Venus since 2009, and with the US Open only two weeks away, time was running out for the then-17-time Grand Slam champion to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova by the end of the year.

“Hopefully I can do well in New York,” she said in Canada. “But I'm going to have to continue to play the way I'm practicing and really transfer that into the match games.

I haven't lost many matches like this where the player was playing unbelievably well. Usually sometimes when I lose it's because I'm playing unbelievably bad. Serena Williams

That form slowly emerged through a solid week in Cincinnati: after needing two tiebreakers to solve Stosur, Serena surged into the semifinals with straight-set victories over Flavia Pennetta and Jelena Jankovic. Up against a good friend and resurgent Caroline Wozniacki, the two battled over three sets to play one of the best matches that week.

The win not only put Williams into a second straight Cincinnati final, but also secured her third US Open Series Bonus Challenge win.

“It means a lot to me,” she said after being honored during her post-match press conference. “I'm really excited I feel like I played three events this year and I really wanted to be there and wanted to support the [North] American tournaments.”

In good spirits despite the long day on court, Serena even entertained life as a line judge for an inquiring journalist.=

“I thought about it once,” she mused. “I was sitting—taking a water break where they sit, and when you look at the line, it's pretty intense.

“I'm pretty good with my challenges, so I think I'll be a pretty good line judge.”


Williams only saw the ball more clearly in the final as she scored a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ana Ivanovic for her first Western & Southern Open title—redemption after enduring a tough loss to Victoria Azarenka in 2013.

“This is definitely a level that could take me to the title,” she said, looking ahead to the US Open. “I still have a lot of work to do, but I think my serve was doing a lot better. And not just in this match. I just think the whole week I've served pretty solid. Hit more aces than I have been hitting.

“Yeah, it's definitely a better level than I've played I think for all year, to be honest.”

Serena proved prescient as she indeed bulldozed the field in New York, defeating Wozniacki in the final after not dropping more than three games a set through seven matches.

“I just could never have imagined that I would be mentioned with Chris Evert or with Martina Navratilova, because I was just a kid with a dream and a racquet,” she said with the US Open trophy in hand. “Living in Compton, you know, this never happened before. You know, I just never could have imagined that it could have ended—not ended. I'm just beginning.”

Right again: the win in Flushing Meadows would kick off her second Non-Calendar Year “Serena” Slam, and put her within two matches of a Calendar Year Slam the following season.

As Williams prepares to bid a likely farewell on Arthur Ashe Stadium, there will be millions watching in hopes she can rediscover that 2014 late-summer form in time for her first match.