Serena Williams may have been out of the grand slam game for roughly 16 months as she started a family, but when her back is against the wall — as one opponent put it last month — the real Serena still comes out.
Severely tested for the first time this Wimbledon, Williams rallied to beat big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-3 6-4 Tuesday to move to within two matches of a record-tying 24th grand slam title.
And it would be a first as a mum — or should that be second, given the American was in the early stages of pregnancy while claiming the Australian Open in 2017? She gave birth to daughter Olympia in September.
Williams was forced to withdraw from the fourth round of the French Open last month in her grand slam return with a pectoral injury and admitted last week she still wasn’t serving at full power.
But the serve is certainly clicking now.
Giorgi, playing in her maiden major quarterfinal, threatened an upset by winning the first set, and led 30-0 on Williams’ serve at 1-1 in the second.
But from then on the seven-time champion lost only nine more points on serve and finished with three love holds to make an 11th semifinal at the All England Club.
Rapper friend Drake and fellow singer Justin Timberlake were among those rooting for her on Centre Court.
Familiar foe in Goerges
The 36-year-old Williams beat her next opponent, Julia Goerges, at the French Open with a fine serving display. Goerges came back in her match, too, defeating Kiki Bertens 3-6 7-5 6-1 in her first grand slam quarterfinal at about the same time Williams’ match ended.
Two-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber faces 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko in the other semifinal after the pair downed Daria Kasatkina 6-3 7-5 and Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-4, respectively. Those contests also finished almost simultaneously.
In the men’s draw, Juan Martin del Potro completed a hard-fought fourth-round win over Gilles Simon 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 7-6 (7-5). They were halted by darkness after three sets Monday, before the Argentine was forced to rally from 3-1 down in the fourth set and 3-1 in the tiebreak.
He will meet Rafael Nadal at a grand slam for the second time in a matter of weeks after the Spaniard eased past del Potro in the French Open semifinals en route to his 17th major.