One year on from her career low point against Naomi Osaka the former champion takes on yet another prodigy in Bianca Andreescu
Not since Muhammad Ali roamed boxing in the 60s and 70s has there been an individual sporting psychodrama to equal that generated by Serena Williams.
Three weeks short of her 38th birthday (which she does not celebrate because of her Jehovahs Witness faith), Williams is hurled into another anniversary she cannot avoid when she revisits the scene of probably her most anguished experience. It is a year since the great American left Arthur Ashe Stadium in tears, a broken champion who could do little but surrender to her own frailties and the rock-solid tennis of Naomi Osaka, a teenager who would rise further then fall in the almost inevitable narrative of their sport.
When Williams reaches for the 24th major of her career on Saturday she will see across the net another prodigy, the ridiculously talented Bianca Andreescu of Canada. It promises to be a struggle as titanic as any Willliams has had since she won her first match here 21 years ago, in three sets against the Australian, Nicole Pratt.
She could not recall that match when asked about it earlier in the week, and meant no disrespect to a fellow professional. But there have been so many triumphs, and quite a few disasters in a career like no other. When she saw off the reduced challenge of the fifth seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets on Thursday, she registered her 101st victory at her home tournament.
But anyone remotely familiar with her career will know that Flushing Meadows has not always embraced Williams like a champion should be. Her meltdown against Osaka last year was one of several, a few of which have cost her not only a win but peace of mind. There have been times in her career and life when she has flirted with total breakdown, yet has not stayed down.
When she was striving for a calender grand slam in 2015, her emotions bubbled up like a volcano and she lost in the semi-finals to the veteran Italian doubles specialist, Roberta Vinci.
In 2011, she had another attack of nerves when the Australian, Samantha Stosur, cashed in here at the conclusion of the fortnight of her career, ignoring the distraction of Williamss verbal exertions on serve, as well as her verbal abuse of the chair umpire, which cost her a warning and a penalty and ultimately the match. Neither Vinci nor Stosur are in her class, yet they beat her, as have others.
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