When she rallied to level set scores and had game points for a 4-0 advantage in the decider, it got uglier than usual. An opera of visceral sensations, whose nag and snag may have channeled Serena williams‘ to defend oneself. But it was Watson who broke love to take a 5-4 lead.
Earlier, during a change, the mighty American stood up to deliver a message to the crowd. “Don’t try me,” she whispered, wiggling her index finger.
In the stands, Oracene Price threw up her arms in frustration. His daughter, the world No. 1, who had won the first two Grand Slams of 2015, slipped.
The 33-year-old’s play was imploding, but something deep in its recesses was building. A fire. One spark against the other. A Broadway musical of symphony and style. Serena, in her competitive finery, has always been the very image of combat.
The U.S. Open was Serena’s last competitive outing then and despite all the praise written for the iconic American, nothing was more telling than her fight. It’s the weapon she’ll need when she faces Montenegro’s 80th-placed Danka Kovinic in the first round on Monday. Serena and Venus will also participate in the women’s doubles.
Watching Serena, who has been ranked No. 1 for 319 weeks, swim against the tide, in less weighty business, is an exciting sight. As in the second round of Roland Garros last year when the 174th Mihaela Buzarnescu had Serena, who is almost 40, running on red clay. The American, in a pea green two-piece, chased and pushed, charging the line and through it, uncorking this dizzying cocktail of head and heart, angles and arguments.
She rocked onlookers and left them speechless during the exchange. When she made her way through the matches, you didn’t just watch her, you felt her. It was his expression, his succinct shooting vocabulary that at the end of the afternoon or evening became yours.
It hasn’t always given her the result she wanted, like in that 2019 US Open final against teenager Bianca Andreescu when her game, caught in the knot of nerves, failed.
Owner of more records than an overstocked music store, including 23 Grand Slams and two Serena Slams, held more than a decade apart, she’s longevity on two legs.
And rightly so, Serena’s fight went through more stages than the size of a tennis court. An advocate for social change, she was the first active professional athlete to appear in feminine hygiene products. She threw her weight behind the Black Lives Matter campaign by speaking out about her nephew, who she says could be in danger to police because of the color of his skin. She has repeatedly emphasized gender equality, drawing attention to her personal struggles as a woman in tennis – where her contributions have not always been celebrated with the same momentum as those of her male colleagues.
One of the greatest athletes of all time, Serena announced her decision to quit tennis in a fashion magazine.
The nearly 41-year-old threw in the word “retirement.” It’s not modern enough. “Perhaps the best word to describe what I do is evolution,” she wrote. “I’m evolving away from tennis, towards other things that are important to me.”
The fight will then continue, in its many undertakings. Long may this fire rage.