|Serena Williams celebrates after defeating Ekaterina Makarova of Russia during their women's singles semifinal match at the 2014 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 5, 2014 in Queens, New York.
NEW YORK -- If it’s possible for Serena Williams to have a “disappointing” season, 2014 has been just that – by her own standards, that is.
But before the summer ends and the tennis year enters into its final chapters, the 32-year-old American is making one final stand at the U.S. Open in New York City, where Williams booked a place in the final with a convincing win Friday over Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
A four-time Olympic gold medalist and the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Williams is playing in her first Grand Slam final this year. She’s the two-time defending champion at this tournament, and her win against Makarova marked her 11th and 12th consecutive sets won in the tournament, a convincing 6-1, 6-3 victory. She has not lost a set in six matches.
“It feels so good,” a smiling Williams said on the court after her win. “You have no idea. I didn’t think I would be here today. I knew she was an aggressive player, so I was just really focused.”
She will face good friend and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the final Sunday. She is 8-1 head-to-head against Wozniacki, including the quarterfinals of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“She's obviously a great player,” Wozniacki told reporters of Williams after her own semifinal victory. “She's won so many Grand Slams. She's a good friend of mine. We were saying when the tournament started, we're like, ‘Yes, we're in separate sides of the drawing, so hopefully we can meet in the finals.’ When she's on fire, she's hard to beat.”
The two players have met twice this summer, with Williams winning both of those in three sets, including a seesaw affair in Montreal, which Williams won 7-5 in the decider.
Williams and Wozniacki’s friendship has grown over the last few months after the public break-up of the Dane with champion golfer Rory McIlroy, to whom she had been engaged. The two were captured on the beach in Miami together after early losses at Roland Garros in Paris, as well as taking in a Miami Heat game.
“We always have been friends, but [our relationship has] definitely grown a lot,” Williams said in a news conference earlier during the U.S. Open. “You know, we love each other, but at the same time we want to win. It's an interesting friendship and unique. I think it will last way past tennis, which I think is great.”
Wozniacki is seeking her first Grand Slam title, playing in her first final since finishing as a runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2009. Williams, meanwhile, owns 17 majors.
“I hope that I'll have more experience,” said the 24-year-old Wozniacki. “I hope that I'll go out there and just go for it. I have nothing to lose. I have only things to win. It's one more match, and I'm going to take it as any other match. I know it's going to be difficult, but it's going to be so much fun to be out there.”
Winner of the singles gold medal in 2012 as well as doubles gold with sister, Venus, in 2000, 2008 and 2012, Williams would tie legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert at the 18-major mark. The all-time leader (and 1988 Olympic gold medalist) Steffi Graf holds 22.
And that sub-standard year?
It’s actually been one of varied success for Williams, who has won a tour-leading five WTA titles this year while racking up a 44-6 record, including six consecutive wins in New York over the last two weeks. The problems have come in the Grand Slams this season in which she did not advance past the fourth round at the Australian Open, French Open or Wimbledon.
But she is doing just fine on home soil.
“I’m just so happy to be here in New York and in a Grand Slam final,” Williams said. “(Wozniacki) obviously wants to win and go for her first Grand Slam, and I want to win and make a little history. We really have been looking forward to this since the draw came out… We really hope to have a lot of fun and enjoy it.”
Nick McCarvel is a freelance writer based in New York. He has covered all four of tennis' Grand Slams as well as the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. McCarvel is a freelance writer for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.