‘This is re­ally hap­pen­ing’

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - SPORTS - HOWARD FENDRICH

LON­DON — There are mo­ments in which noth­ing at all seems dif­fer­ent about Ser­ena Wil­liams, mo­ments such as when she un­leashed a 109 mph ser­vice win­ner to even her Wim­ble­don quar­ter­fi­nal at a set apiece, leaned for­ward and yelled, loudly as can be, “Cooome ooon!”

Or when, about 10 min­utes later, she stretched for a lung­ing back­hand win­ner to break at love and take con­trol of the third set, then raised a fist, fig­ur­ing a berth in her 11th semi­fi­nal at the All Eng­land Club was close at hand.

And af­ter Wil­liams came up with a come­back to beat 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Tues­day, she headed off Cen­tre Court with her right index fin­ger aloft. Yes, no mat­ter what the rank­ings or seed­ings say, no mat­ter how long she was away, Wil­liams still looks ca­pa­ble of play­ing like some­one who’s No. 1, just about 10 months af­ter hav­ing a baby.

“Every­thing right now is a lit­tle bit of a sur­prise. To be here. To be in the semi­fi­nals. I mean, I al­ways say I plan on it, I would like to be there, have these goals,” Wil­liams said. “But, when it ac­tu­ally hap­pens, it still is, like, ‘Wow, this is re­ally hap­pen­ing.’ ”

So, what if she’s still get­ting her game in gear? So, what if Giorgi wouldn’t seem to miss while mov­ing out to that early lead?

Wil­liams never was wor­ried about los­ing.

“It’s weird. Some­times I feel, ‘Man, I’m in trouble.’ Some­times I feel, ‘I can fight.’ For what­ever rea­son, to­day I was so calm,” said 36-year-old Amer­i­can, who has been wear­ing com­pres­sion leg­gings as a pre­cau­tion af­ter a blood­clot scare fol­low­ing her daugh­ter’s birth. “Even when I was down the first set, I thought, ‘Well, she’s play­ing great. I’m do­ing a lot of the right things.’ ”

Asked whether that might rep­re­sent a new way of look­ing at things, Wil­liams smiled.

“No. Just to be clear, that was just to­day. I mean, I’m hop­ing this is, like, a new thing,” she said. “Hon­estly, I highly doubt it.”

Next up for Wil­liams as she tries to earn her eighth ti­tle at the All Eng­land Club and 24th Grand Slam tro­phy over­all will be a match Thurs­day against No. 13 seed Ju­lia Go­erges, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win­ner against No. 20 Kiki Bertens.

“It’s pretty un­real for me,” said Go­erges, who reached her first ma­jor semi­fi­nal at a tour­na­ment where she ex­ited in the first round each of the past five years.

The other semi­fi­nal is No. 11 seed An­gelique Ker­ber vs. No. 12 Je­lena Ostapenko.

Ker­ber is a former No. 1 who owns two Grand Slam ti­tles and was the run­ner-up to Wil­liams at Wim­ble­don two years ago. Ostapenko won last year’s French Open.

Ker­ber needed seven match points to close out No. 14 Daria Kasatk­ina 6-3, 7-5 at Cen­tre Court, while Ostapenko de­feated 2014 Aus­tralian Open run­ner-up Do­minika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-4 at a windy No. 1 Court.

Af­ter a series of up­sets made this edi­tion of Wim­ble­don the first since it be­gan seed­ing play­ers in the 1920s that none of the top 10 women reached the quar­ter­fi­nals, Nos. 11, 12 and 13 are still around. And so is No. 25, Wil­liams.

The All Eng­land Club seeded her there as a nod to all of her past suc­cess at the grass-court ma­jor, in­clud­ing ti­tles the last two times she en­tered, in 2015 and 2016. She missed Wim­ble­don a year ago be­cause she was preg­nant, go­ing about 16 months be­tween Grand Slam tour­na­ments, so her rank­ing is just out­side the top 180.

That is go­ing to change now.

Told she is guar­an­teed of ris­ing to 51st next week — and higher if she reaches the fi­nal or wins the cham­pi­onship — Wil­liams joked: “Got to keep trekking on, though. Ser­ena Wil­liams, 51? Eh, it doesn’t have that same ring to it. The ‘1’ part does, but not the ‘5.’”

Wil­liams is 3-0 against Go­erges, win­ning in straight sets each time.

“Ev­ery match starts from zero,” Go­erges said. “Ev­ery­body has the same chances to win that match, and I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Af­ter their most re­cent meet­ing, in the French Open’s third round last month, Wil­liams pulled out of that tour­na­ment, cit­ing a chest mus­cle in­jury that made it too painful to serve.

She went a cou­ple of weeks without prac­tic­ing serves, and the rest did won­ders. She hit one at 122 mph against Giorgi, de­liv­ered six of her seven aces in the fi­nal set, and won 44 of the last 54 points she served.

“I messed up too much on my re­turns,” said Giorgi, ques­tion­ing her de­ci­sion to stand in­side the base­line to re­ceive serve.

Rare is the player who can pro­duce Wil­liams’ sort of pace on serves — Giorgi’s av­er­age speeds were ac­tu­ally faster on first and sec­ond serves, and she de­liv­ered the match’s first three aces — and mir­ror her power in ground­stroke ex­changes at the base­line.

But, Giorgi plays with nary a trace of sub­tlety and more than a bit of aban­don, tak­ing risky, flat chops at the ball with serves, re­turns, fore­hands and back­hands. She har­bours no com­punc­tion about striv­ing for a poin­tend­ing win­ner with ev­ery stroke. When she’s cal­i­brat­ing prop­erly, it all can be tough for op­po­nents to han­dle.

Even Wil­liams. Well, for a set, any­way.

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