Serena Williams Reminds the Wimbledon Field That She Is Still a Force

Serena Williams Reminds the Wimbledon Field That She Is Still a Force

WIMBLEDON, England — On edge in the first two rounds at Wimbledon, Serena Williams got her groove back on Saturday in Round 3, beating Julia Görges, 6-3, 6-4.

Williams’s timing was excellent, both from the baseline and in broader terms. Saturday’s duel was a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon semifinal, also won by Williams in straight sets. With her potent first serve and big groundstrokes, Görges has the game to excel on grass.

But no woman has excelled on grass in the last 20 years more frequently than Williams, who has won seven singles titles at the All England Club.

Winning an eighth would be one of her more remarkable achievements based on her age — 37 — and her lack of match play in a season full of injuries and frustration.

She is a long way from holding up the Venus Rosewater Dish, which goes to the women’s singles champion. Her nasty quarter of the draw has thinned out considerably, but it still contains the new No. 1, Ashleigh Barty, who won her 15th consecutive singles match on Saturday, a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Harriet Dart, an overmatched British wild card.

Next up for Barty on Monday: the unseeded American Alison Riske.

Williams’s victory over Görges sent a message to the field that she is definitely not to be discounted.

She put 71 percent of her first serves in play — her best percentage of the tournament — and had seven aces. Most important, she did not allow Görges the luxury of a break point, locking down her service games with an attitude that ranged from pensive to ferocious.

“I think I play pretty good when I’m calm but also superintense,” Williams said. “Just finding the balance in between there, it’s a hard balance to find because sometimes when I’m too calm I don’t have the energy.”

Williams, who has struggled to play tournaments and complete matches of late because of a knee problem, has pronounced herself fit for the first time since early March and has backed that up by deciding to playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

They were scheduled to play their first-round match later Saturday afternoon. The last time she tried double duty at a Grand Slam tournament — playing with her sister Venus Williams at the 2018 French Open — she ended up straining a pectoral muscle during a doubles match and withdrawing from the singles, where she had reached the fourth round.

But she and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, are convinced she needs the matches this time to shake off the rust. There were still traces of it on Saturday: mistimed groundstrokes on the move and mistimed returns off second serves that looked ready to be punished.

Still, the statistics sheet that Williams brought with her to the postmatch news conference was full of encouraging news, including a positive ratio of winners (27) to unforced errors (23). She was particularly effective with her forehand on Saturday, both at full power and, more subtly, with the rolling off-speed crosscourt shot that surprised Görges, the No. 18 seed, again and again.

“I just need to keep it up,” said Williams, who is seeded No. 11 this year. “Each match for me really counts. I haven’t had a tremendous amount.”

Her next match will be in the fourth round on Monday against 30th-seeded Carla Suárez Navarro, a Spanish veteran typically better on higher bouncing surfaces than grass.

Williams has beaten Suárez six times in six matches and beat her, 6-0, 6-0, in the quarterfinals of the 2013 United States Open.

A player never forgets a defeat like that, all the more so because it came on Suárez’s 25th birthday.

Christopher Clarey has covered global sports for The Times and the International Herald Tribune for more than 25 years from bases in France, Spain and the United States. His specialties are tennis, soccer, the Olympic Games and sailing. @christophclarey

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