Continued from page 1

While Serena’s a familiar finalist, her perspective these days is different.

“I have so much appreciation for every moment on the court,” she said. “I really take pride in playing, especially playing such big, amazing tournaments like this. I just want to do the absolute best that I can at all moments.”

After scares in the third and fourth rounds, Williams has lately been close to her absolute best. She eliminated defending champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, then defeated reigning Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, winning both times in straight sets.

“It’s a different Serena we see now,” said 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, an analyst for ESPN. “We haven’t seen Serena play as well as she has these last two matches since before she hurt her foot. She has great power and movement, and the confidence she needs to go with that.”

As has often been the case with Williams, her play in the tournament improved as the opposition became more formidable. She beat Zheng Jie in the third round, winning the third set 9-7, then edged wild card Yaroslava Shvedova, taking the third set 7-5.

She’s a big favorite against Radwanska.

Serena’s playing amazing tennis at the moment,” Radwanska said. “I don’t really have much to lose, so I’m going to try my best and we’ll see.”

Radwanska is a steady, dogged baseliner who likes grass — she was a Wimbledon junior champion in 2005. With a win in the final, she would rise for the first time to No. 1 in the rankings.

But she lacks the weapons of Williams, whose big serve is especially well-suited to Wimbledon’s speedy grass courts.

“The championship is Serena’s to win or lose,” Evert said. “She controls every point with her power.”

Williams hit a tournament-record 23 aces against Zheng, then had 24 against Azarenka. With 85 aces in the tournament, she’s four shy of the Wimbledon record she set in 2010.

During one stretch in her semifinal victory, Williams won 17 consecutive service points. No wonder she rates her serve as the shot she finds the most fun.

“It’s the most reliable, like, OK, yes, you don’t have to think, don’t have to do anything, just hit an ace,” she said with a smile. “It’s like a lazy shot.”

When she wins, Williams has taken to hopping on the grass like a grade-schooler at recess. But she’s no youngster anymore. At 30, she could become the first thirty-something woman to win a major tournament since Martina Navratilova, who was 33 when she won Wimbledon in 1990.

Not that Williams feels like an old-timer.

Story Continues →