Morn­ing med­i­ta­tion does trick for

‘It’s just about giv­ing my best. I will al­ways have a great ca­reer’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Wimbledon - By Si­mon Briggs at Wim­ble­don 6-1, 6-2

The les­son of the semi-fi­nals was clear. A serene Ser­ena Williams re­mains all but in­vin­ci­ble, even as she ap­proaches her 38th birth­day.

Williams pro­duced her most dom­i­nant win of the tour­na­ment yesterday, barg­ing an un­der­pow­ered Barbora Strycova out of her way in just 59 min­utes.

Then, after round­ing off a straight-sets vic­tory with her 28th clean win­ner, Williams told re­porters about a mo­ment of quiet con­tem­pla­tion ear­lier in the day.

Asked about her pur­suit of Mar­garet Court’s all-time record of 24 ma­jor ti­tles – a tally she would equal if she beats Si­mona Halep in to­mor­row’s fi­nal – Williams said: “I thought about it this morn­ing. I just kind of let it go this morn­ing. Yeah, I feel really calm about it.

“It’s really not about 24 or 23 or 25 [ma­jors]. It’s really just about going out there and giv­ing my best ef­fort no mat­ter what. No mat­ter what I do, I will al­ways have a great ca­reer.”

Yesterday’s match of­fered the same banana-skin po­ten­tial as Williams’s 2015 US Open semi-fi­nal against Roberta Vinci. In both cases, Williams was the strong favourite, tak­ing on a vet­eran of the tour who had never reached that stage of a ma­jor be­fore. And in both cases, there was a mas­sive prize at stake – ei­ther the cal­en­dar grand slam, four years ago, or Court’s record this time around.

Vinci and Strycova even em­ployed a sim­i­lar game style. A pair of cham­pion dou­bles play­ers, they tried to out­flank Williams’s raw power with changes of pace and fre­quent vis­its to the net. But while Williams had been flus­tered and er­ratic against Vinci, she was a model of com­po­sure yesterday from the first game, which she won with a del­i­cate, angled smash.

One fea­ture of Williams’s nearflaw­less per­for­mance was the way that she matched or even ex­ceeded Strycova’s dex­ter­ity in the fore­court – a sur­pris­ing devel­op­ment that she later put down to her mixed dou­bles cam­paign with Andy Mur­ray. “I prom­ise you, when I hit a volley I was like, ‘ Would I have made that if I didn’t play dou­bles?’” Williams said. “I don’t think so. I kept telling you guys I thought the dou­bles would help me. I know that when I play dou­bles here with Venus it def­i­nitely helps my sin­gles game. I was really keen to play mixed here.”

If Strycova did not put up as much of a fight as she had against Jo­hanna Konta in Tues­day’s quar­ter-fi­nal, that was partly be­cause she tweaked a right gluteal mus­cle on the sec­ond point of the match, so re­strict­ing her nor­mally fleet­footed move­ment.

Yet as Strycova ad­mit­ted af­ter­wards, in a sur­pris­ingly cheer­ful interview, she would have been pow­er­less to cope with Williams on this form in any case.

“I was play­ing a to­tally dif­fer­ent player to­day, to­tally dif­fer­ent ground­strokes,” she said, after an af­ter­noon spent chas­ing shad­ows.

Konta strikes the ball hard, but Williams was oblit­er­at­ing it. What­ever she did to fix up her dodgy right knee after her third-round exit from the French Open, it has worked a treat. So why was Wil

Williams will clinch her eighth Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle if she beats Halep, putting her one be­hind the record of Navratilov­a. liams’s per­for­mance yesterday so su­pe­rior to her pre­vi­ous five matches? Per­haps it had some­thing to do with that morn­ing med­i­ta­tion, which helped her put the ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure to one side.

The next thing you know, she will be em­u­lat­ing No­vak Djokovic by fre­quent­ing the nearby Bud­dha­padipa Tem­ple – a Bud­dhist re­treat staffed by saf­fron-robed monks.

“I was ac­tu­ally think­ing this morn­ing [about] when I won my first Wim­ble­don,” Williams said.

“I think it was against Venus. I was try­ing to tap into those emotions. I was really calm. It’s so, so dif­fer­ent when you’re younger as op­posed to now.”

To­mor­row prom­ises to be a great oc­ca­sion. Not only did Halep in­flict an equally crush­ing de­feat on eighth seed Elina Svi­tolina yesterday, but all four of her pre­vi­ous ma­jor fi­nals pro­duced three-set epics.

On yesterday’s ev­i­dence, though, this ti­tle is Williams’s to win or lose.

If she can re­main as emo­tion­ally sta­ble as she was against Strycova, and some­how for­get the size of the stakes, she will be well-placed to col­lect her first ma­jor since she left the tour to be­come a mother, early in 2017.

“I was calm to­day [but] it’s a dayto-day ba­sis with me,” she said. “We all know that. I’m far from per­fect.”

At yesterday’s press con­fer­ence, Williams was asked about last year’s de­feat by An­gelique Ker­ber in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal, and whether she can go one bet­ter this time around.

“I just re­mem­ber I was tired and Angie played un­be­liev­able. I ac­tu­ally was sad, but I was also proud of my­self. Phys­i­cally I just wasn’t there. So I’m def­i­nitely at a dif­fer­ent place.”

One side-ef­fect of Williams’s progress could be a re­peat of last week’s royal visit by the Duchess of Sus­sex. The se­cu­rity for the pre­vi­ous in­stance – a rel­a­tively low-pro­file trip to No 1 Court eight days ago – has come un­der fire as heavy­handed, but Williams in­sisted yesterday: “Any time I see her name at­tached to any­thing, I don’t read it.

“She couldn’t be a bet­ter friend to me,” Williams added of the Duchess, whose wed­ding she at­tended last year. “Low mo­ments, high mo­ments, she’s al­ways there. That’s all I want to be to her.”

On a roll: Ser­ena Williams wins sec­ond ti­tle in 2003

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.