It is almost fitting in hindsight that this was the year Serena Williams again decided to share her life in the documentary format.
“Being Serena,” a five-part HBO series, detailed the months following Serena’s death-defying recovery from postpartum health complications. 10 months ago Williams was struggling to carry her daughter over the threshold of their home for the first time. Now, her daughter is beginning to take her first steps while her mother takes her own “firsts” back to the final of Wimbledon. Imagery such as that makes Williams more relatable to us “mere mortals,” at least when she often makes the extraordinary look automatic. More importantly, her current journey serves as a reminder that none of Williams’ work over her three-decade career should ever be mistaken as easy.
“I didn’t expect to play this well so quickly into my comeback,” Serena said. “It’s not inevitable for me to be playing like this. I had multiple surgeries and nearly didn’t make it when I gave birth. I’m enjoying every moment.”
What’s not to love about how Serena is playing at the moment? Williams heads into her 30th major final and 10th Wimbledon final as the leader in fewest unforced errors struck at this tournament. According to WTA Insider, Williams’ unforced error count has shrunk in each match since her third round to a stingy single-figure level: 19 (3R), 11 (4R), 9 (QF), and 7 (SF). Williams’ service speeds were also back in the higher range for her semifinal match on Thursday against Julia Goerges.
In her quarterfinal match against Camila Giorgi, you’ll recall Williams was averaging only 102 mph on her first serve. Both Goerges, Williams’ semifinal opponent, and Serena herself averaged 107 mph with their first serves Thursday afternoon with Williams maxing out at 119 mph. This was a confident, healthy, and dominant performance over the German, Goerges, who was experiencing her first career major semifinal.
Serena will now have another chance to create history at Wimbledon. Two years ago on the same exact Centre Court, Williams faced Goerges’s countrywoman, Angelique Kerber, in the final that allowed her to tie Steffi Graf at the top of the Open Era leaderboard for major titles with 22. Back then Kerber and Serena looked like a potential rivalry that was on the cusp of replacing the absences of Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, or Petra Kvitova, but life does not always move in a linear fashion, does it?
Pregnancies or the burden of expectations — as in Kerber’s case — can derail the purest of intentions. Still, two years later, the course has corrected. Serena will walk onto Centre Court with no pressure and the thoughts of Olympia as an internal refuge. Kerber will arrive as a now- two-time major champion, former world number one, and two-time Wimbledon finalist. Williams and Kerber will be the first pairing to repeatedly meet in the Wimbledon final — other than Williams and her older sister Venus — since 1996. Steffi Graf won both of those finals over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Serena will try to do the same against the excellent counterpuncher on the other side of the net.
Don’t be tricked into thinking it will be easy, or that it is already inevitable. Kerber will have her say.
Serena knows how to speak profoundly, though — in a documentary and on Centre Court Wimbledon.