Serena Williams won her fourth US Open on Sunday evening, clinching the title for the first time since 1997 with a walkover victory against Romanian player Irina Bukova. The victory made Williams the first woman to win four US Open championships (and the first overall to win the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world four times).
The win was undoubtedly one of the greatest Grand Slam victories in history, as Williams secured the title against all odds and with three straight set wins in the final. She also became the first WTA Tour women’s tennis winner to hoist the trophy a record four times.
The Last-Minute Changes
The fact that Williams won the tournament despite sustaining an injury early in the season and struggling with form at points throughout the year is testament to the champion’s incredible effort and willpower. After missing the first two months of the season, Williams returned in May and began by winning two matches in the first round of the French Open, the only Grand Slam tournament of the season. She followed that up with another two wins in the second round, before losing to eventual tournament champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals.
Williams would go on to finish the season with a 23-match winning streak, including a 9-match win streak at the end of the year that saw her climb to the number one ranking in the world for the first time in her career. During that streak, she also won the last four sets of the year against world #2 and defending champion Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, and Barbora Strýcová, respectively. Her 2019 campaign was undoubtedly one of the greatest in recent history, as she won 23 matches in a row and became the first player in open tennis history to win four US Open titles.
However, just as she was about to claim her record-breaking fourth US Open, Williams was hit by a hip injury during her match against Romanian player Eliecean Mursić. The veteran was forced to retire from the match with pain, and the injury would sideline her for a couple of weeks. She returned to the tour in June and began by winning her fifth French Open in Paris before heading to the US for the summer. However, just as she was hitting her stride, Williams suffered another injury while training in Colorado, resulting in her missing six more matches. It was at this point that the tennis world began to fear the worst – would Serena Williams be sidelined for the entire season, or would she return and claim her record-breaking title yet again?
Thankfully, luck was on Serena Williams’ side when it came to the rest of her season. She recovered from her injuries quickly, returning from her long hiatus (she was still able to train while resting) to win the first two matches of her comeback, against Arina Rodionova and Kristie Ahn, before falling to eventual champion Petra Kvitova in the third round. The following week, Williams would win the inaugural Worthy Cup, an exhibition tournament in Paris that was part of the celebrations for the third anniversary of the Women’s Tennis Association. She continued to train hard during the offseason, returning in October for the season-ending championships in Yokohama. In 11 matches at the tournament, she dropped only four games, falling to eventual champion Petra Kvitova in the semifinals. The rest of the season saw Williams reach her sixth and seventh Super Slam finals, losing to Naomi Osaka in both instances.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on a record-breaking season, Serena Williams still managed to have one of the greatest years in recent tennis history. She won 23 matches in a row at one point during the season, reaching a new career-high ranking of world number two. Her final month of the season saw her win seven matches in a row and reach the semifinals of the WTA Tour Championships in London. The 7-0 victory over Barbora Strýcová in the last four was particularly memorable, as Williams became the first woman in Open tennis history to win four straight sets in the final.
What Was the Key to Serena Williams’ Success?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what made Williams so successful this year, as she entered the season with a relatively poor record in the Big Four majors (the four most prestigious tournaments in the world) since her last victory in 2017. However, the 2019 edition was undoubtedly one of the greatest in recent memory, as she won five of the six majors this year including the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open, while also reaching the semifinals of the WTA Championships in London.
What was perhaps the key to Williams’ success this year was her unwavering determination to succeed, refusing to let injury or poor form get in the way of her goals. As she told the New York Times in October, “I’ve always worked hard, and I think that’s contributed to my success; however, I don’t know if it’s totally accounted for it. I’ve never really doubted that I could do anything, and I’ve tried not to. But maybe I’ve been lucky that when I’ve doubted myself, something good has happened.”
Williams continued, “When I doubted myself, I got opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I think that’s the beauty of life – you never know what’s around the corner. You just have to keep moving forward, day by day.”
It’s moments like these that highlight the unbridal resilience of professional tennis players, displaying a never-say-die attitude that certainly makes them worthy of our respect as athletes. In addition to this incredible work ethic, Williams also benefited from some truly magical bounces this year that helped her to greatness. As she told the media in 2019, “It was a combination of factors. There were a lot of things that went into this year being my best season, but I feel like I had a lot of help along the way.”
Some of the shots that made the difference this year for Williams were her powerful serves and voluminous forehand, which she used to devastating effect. She also credited her phenomenal stamina, having worked hard throughout her career to develop it, for helping her to deal with the rigorous sport and its physical demands. Finally, Williams repeatedly expressed her gratitude to her husband, Alexis Ohanian, for his unwavering support throughout her career, noting that he was by her side at all the major moments this year.
Williams’ Injury Problems Are Ancient History
Serena Williams is not the only tennis player to battle health problems this year, as numerous other players are also dealing with knee or back injuries that could keep them sidelined for significant amounts of time. Interestingly, this is the opposite of what has typically been the case in recent years, with players tending to stay fit and healthy longer as they get older. This year, however, marks the return of the old: many top-level tennis players are experiencing serious injury issues for the first time in years, and it’s likely that this is a direct result of improved sports science and medicine, as well as more demanding training regimens.
What Was Meryl Streep Thinking While Watching The Tennis?
If there was one moment that perfectly encapsulated the 2019 US Open, it came in the final game of the night. With two sets to go in the match, streaking lights flashed on the large screen, and the legendary Meryl Streep (who was in the audience that night) began to cry. It was a breathtaking performance, particularly since Williams had been outplayed by her opponent for the majority of the final set.
While she was moved by the performance, Streep wasn’t the only one: viewers at home were also moved by the incredible display of sportsmanship and grace by two competitors who had been at each other’s throats for most of the night. The intensity on show in the final few games was a thing to behold, with both players putting everything on the line as they vied for the gold.
There were, however, some that were less than impressed by the manner in which Williams celebrated her victory. After the match, Osaka called for changes to be made to the tennis, claiming that Williams had used dirty tactics to win the match. Serena Williams herself disagreed, stating that she didn’t see anything wrong with the way she played. Ultimately, neither did the chair umpire, John Isner, who awarded the match to Williams over 19-21 in the final set.