Newspaper article International New York Times

Williams Labors in Win, Then Straight to a Practice Court

Newspaper article International New York Times

Williams Labors in Win, Then Straight to a Practice Court

Article excerpt

After winning a surprisingly competitive second-round match at the United States Open, Serena Williams went to the practice court with her coach.

Shortly after winning a surprisingly competitive second-round match against Kiki Bertens that lasted 1 hour 32 minutes in warm conditions, Serena Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, went back to the practice court and hit balls for almost an hour.

They worked on her serve, which had been a source of frustration in the match. She also fired passing shots down the lines that screamed off her racket at a ferocious pace.

Williams's 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Bertens on Wednesday was her 23rd straight win in a major tournament this year. In the third round, she will play Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who routed CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-1. It will be the 53rd match of the year for Williams, who has won 50.

She has also spent many more grueling hours on practice courts across continents, beginning in January in Australia. But as she inches a step closer to becoming the sixth player to win a Grand Slam, there is no reprieve.

Even after Williams came back from a 4-0 deficit in a first-set tiebreaker, summoning her unconquerable will to do it, she was not pleased.

"It definitely wasn't my happiest of moments," Williams said. "I don't think you should be happy with just winning. At least I'm not. Maybe other people can."

Williams said Mouratoglou had noticed specific things that needed to be addressed. At one point he demonstrated the proper shoulder tilt while serving. Williams has five matches to go to make history, and she must improve on her performance to do it.

Then again, maybe she doesn't.

At times during her quest to win the Grand Slam, last accomplished by Steffi Graf in 1988, Williams has looked frustrated and vulnerable. She lost nine sets in her first 21 matches at the three previous major tournaments, facing down match points, and she has been forced to play four tiebreakers at this year's majors. But she keeps winning.

Against Bertens, the 110th-ranked player in the world, Williams double-faulted 10 times and won only 36 percent of the points on her second serve. Hence the extra workout, which is not unheard-of but is also not routine. …

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