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US Open

Serena loves to be loved

By Matt Cronin
Saturday, September 1, 2012

Serena Williams is about as good a player in exacting revenge for devastating defeats as anyone in history. So when she strode out onto Ashe Stadium to face Ekaterina Makarova in their third round contest, it was clear that she was determined to not be wrong footed by the Russian, as happened to her earlier this year in Australia.

Playing in super hot conditions, the talented lefthander Makarova did stay with Williams until 4-4 in the first set, but then Serena grabbed a crucial break and flew to a 6-4, 6-0 victory.

Vengeance achieved.

“Definitely was motivated,” said the three-time US Open champion. “Knowing that I lost, could definitely happen again. Did not want that to happen.”

Williams – who was contending with a bad ankle during the Australian Open -- added that she wasn't sure she had learned something during that loss, and did not watch a replay of the defeat. While many players do like to study film, she does not enjoy the process. Serena takes advice from her coaches, but she does not want to sit down and replay a horror show.

“I really hate watching matches that I lose unless I'm punishing myself,” Williams said. “I didn't punish myself. I used to. It was so painful. It was like stabbing myself. I have tried either not to lose or not to watch matches that I lost. You can't imagine how I feel watching it. It's not a good feeling. It's very painful, like cutting yourself to me.”

Serena has had an amazing ride since returning to the tour after nearly a year off due to injury and illness. She struggled at times earlier this year, but outside of her stunning first round defeat to Virginie Razzano in Paris, she didn't drop a match on clay, and she went undefeated on grass, winning Wimbledon and the Olympic gold medal in singles and in doubles with her older sister, Venus. She also repeated as champion at Stanford on hardcourts, and despite a loss to Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati, she came into the US Open full of confidence and has only dropped 16 games in three matches.

She is looking very much like the woman who won the 2008 title, and is a whole lot more mature than she was back then, too.

“It's been extremely fun. I've really appreciated the past few months,” she said. “Really the past year has been really amazing. Coming back playing starting at [2011] Wimbledon, even though I think I lost in the fourth round, but pretty much did really well since then, really consistent, and came from, 170 something to back being, top 5 and obviously trying to move ahead with that. And winning the gold medal has been amazing. I really wanted to win it in doubles, but I think deep down I really, really, really wanted it in singles. And then Wimbledon is just crazy. Winning another Grand Slam after being in the hospital is shocking and cool and amazing.”

The 30-year-old Williams has not always been able to leave her personal problems off the court. But as she’s grown older, she has been able to sob in private and wipe the tears off her face before tossing up the first ball.

“I have been really good at that. I went through a breakup, too,” she said in reference to how her rival Maria Sharapova also succeeded in playing well this summer after she broke off her engagement “But, yeah. It's tough.”

Serena will face surprise opponent Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic in the fourth round, a lively personality whose family are the founders of the famous Czech beer, Pilsner Urquel.

Given how hard 14-time Grand Slam champion Serena has worked to come back to form, and how she has largely carried the United States Grand Slam hopes on her shoulders during the past five years or so, she could use a little love, too.

“I think everyone loves to be adored by the crowd,” she said. “I feel like I have so much support here in New York. When I played her last year I felt unbelievable support. It's always awesome to have that crowd behind you and have that support and to have those fans that you really love and adore.”

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