NEW YORK — Given all of the setbacks Serena Williams shrugged aside over the years — on tennis courts and, more daunting, away from them — she probably shouldn’t have been worried when she stood two points from losing the U.S. Open final.
And yet, she explained afterward, “I really was preparing my runner-up speech.”
No need for that. When the going gets toughest, Williams tends to shine.
Finally tested, and even trailing, at Flushing Meadows, Williams suddenly found her composure and her strokes, winning the last four games for a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory over top-ranked Victoria Azarenka on Sunday night, collecting a fourth U.S. Open championship and 15th Grand Slam title overall.
“I never give up. I never, never quit,” Williams said after the first three-set U.S. Open women’s final since 1995. “I have come back so many times in so many matches.”
In other ways, too.
She missed eight months after having surgery on her left knee in 2003, the year she had completed a self-styled “Serena Slam” by winning four consecutive major titles. Of more concern: Only a few days after winning Wimbledon in 2010, Williams cut both feet on broken glass while leaving a restaurant in Germany, leading to two operations on her right foot. Then she got clots in her lungs and needed to inject herself with a blood thinner. Those shots led to a pool of blood gathering under her stomach’s skin, requiring another procedure in the hospital.
In all, she was off the tour for about 10 months, returning in 2011.
“She was so disgusted at home. She felt like she was useless. That’s the way it is with athletes, I guess. She couldn’t sit still,” said Williams‘ mother, Oracene Price. “She was getting depressed. A lot to overcome.”
Talk about making up for lost time.
Take a look at what Williams has done lately. Back on May 29, she lost to a woman ranked 111th at the French Open, the American’s only first-round exit in 49 career Grand Slam tournaments.
“I was miserable after that loss in Paris. I have never been so miserable after a loss,” Williams said. “I pulled it together. … Sometimes, they say, it’s good to lose.”
Certainly in her case.