The ferocity of the gesture is understandable, given the obstacles she has beaten back in the past couple of years.
A succession of health issues led to a long layoff that forced Williams to mount a career comeback, and she’ll try to cap it Saturday when she plays Agnieszka Radwanska, the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam final since 1939.
“I’m so happy to be playing,” she said. “I’ve been through so much in the past year or two years, it has been unbelievable.”
This week Radwanska has been ailing herself, battling an upper respiratory illness that makes it difficult to speak and forced her to cancel a news conference Friday.
“I will do whatever it takes to make sure I’m ready to play the best I can,” she said in a statement.
While the No. 3-ranked Radwanska seeks to become Poland’s first Grand Slam title, the No. 6-ranked Williams has a shot at her first major championship since Wimbledon in 2010. Shortly after that victory, she cut her feet on glass at a restaurant, required two operations and spent more time in the hospital because of blood clots in her lung and a gathering of blood under the skin of her stomach.
“I really thought Serena was going to die,” said her father and coach, Richard Williams. “This is the most important tournament that Serena would ever win … because Serena didn’t think she’d ever play tennis again. She told me so.”
She was sidelined nearly a year before rejoining the tour in June 2011, and her ranking sank to 175th.
“I just wanted to make it through everything that I was going through and become a survivor,” she said.
The comeback proceeded in fits and starts. She lost in the fourth round last year at Wimbledon, and reached the final of the U.S. Open before losing to Samantha Stosur.
She was beaten in the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open, and then came her stunning defeat in May against 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French Open. It’s the only time in 48 career Grand Slam appearances that Williams lost her opening match.
With older sister Venus‘ fortunes in decline as she deals with an autoimmune disease, some speculated the family might never win another major title.
Now, with one more victory, Wimbledon will again become the Williams Open. Serena, Venus or both have reached the final in 11 of the past 13 tournaments. They’ve combined to win nine titles at the All England Club, and the sisters will try for their fifth Wimbledon doubles title on Saturday.