Four years ago, no tennis player in the world commanded more attention than Serena Williams.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion came into the 2015 edition of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank having won four straight Grand Slam titles and been victorious in 40 of her 41 matches prior to the event.
There seemed to be nothing that could stop her.
But then Belinda Bencic upset her in the semis at Rogers Cup, before Roberta Vinci repeated that same feat in the US Open semi-finals.
Since then, Williams hasn’t been quite the same. She’s still been dominant at times. Shown flashes of greatness. But for someone who is often debated as the G.O.A.T., it is a bit surprising that she has come up empty-handed in her last six Grand Slam appearances.
However, her return to Canada in 2019 promises to be different. A perfect storm seems to be brewing. It has all the makings of a return to the winner’s circle for Serena Williams. Here are three reasons why she’s destined to win her fourth Rogers Cup title.
1) A winning pedigree in Canada
Serena always seems to be at her very best in Canada.
The 37 year old has a great history at Rogers Cup. In her eight career appearances north of the border, Williams has failed to reach the semi-finals on just one occasion. It happened back in 2005 when she was force to withdraw during the tournament with a knee injury.
She has a 30-4 match record at this event and been crowned champion on three separate occasions (2001, 2011 and 2013). Those three titles put her just one shy of matching the tournament record in the Open Era held by two legendary players, Monica Seles and Chris Evert.
Williams has also reached four finals in Canada, having lost just once in the title match. That defeat came at the hands of Martina Hingis in Williams’ Rogers Cup debut back in 2000. It remains one of just four losses she’s experienced at this tournament – and three of those four defeats have come at the hands of the eventual champion.
So it’s safe to say, to take down Serena, someone is going to require a championship-caliber effort.
2) Recent surge of success
Despite sputtering to start the year, Serena finally seemed to find her groove on the grass courts of the All England Club.
The 37 year old dropped just two sets en route to reaching the Wimbledon final for a second year in a row. Unfortunately the end result was the same. In 2018, it was Angelique Kerber who took Serena down in straight sets. This year it was Simona Halep. But by reaching the ladies’ final at Wimbledon, Williams achieved something she hadn’t in 2019.
At the two other Grand Slam events this season, she failed to go beyond the quarter-finals – losing in the quarters at the Australian Open and the third round at the French Open. To make matters worse, after Roland-Garros, the 23-time Grand Slam champion actually stuck around in Paris to get medical treatment for her left knee. She only began preparing for Wimbledon less than two weeks prior to the event.
But despite little preparation, Serena did was what she does best. She overpowered her opponents en route to her 11th career final at the All England Club. She said she was finally feeling pain-free heading into Wimbledon, which might explain why she was so successful at this Slam compared to others in 2019.
Her performance in London also helped her ascend to No.9 in the world rankings, which is the highest she’s been ranked since returning to the tour after giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017.
3) A hunger for history
It’s no secret. Serena Williams is one Grand Slam title shy of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
Williams has had plenty of chances to match the mark set by the Australian. Since scoring her 23rd career major title at the 2017 Australian Open, Serena has reached three Grand Slam finals – and lost all of them in straight sets.
However, if there was a place she would attain the feat, the US Open would arguably be the likeliest of all the Slams. It’s true that she has won more titles at the Australian Open (7) and Wimbledon (7) than she has at Flushing Meadows (6). But, believe it or not, Serena has reached the semis in nine straight US Open appearances dating back to 2008. The same cannot be said about the other Slams.
Over those last nine US Open starts, Williams has reached the final six times – ultimately winning on four of those occasions.
If she’s wants to win another title in New York and match Court’s record, Serena knows there’s a good chance she’ll need to build momentum heading into a Slam. “I just have to figure out a way to win a final”, said Serena after losing to Halep at Wimbledon. “Maybe playing other finals outside of Grand Slams would be really helpful just to kind of get in the groove so by the time I get to a Grand Slam final I’m kind of used to what to do and how to play.”
That’s why Toronto is the perfect place for Serena to start building towards securing that elusive 24th career Grand Slam title.