By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – There were no intimidating roars of “c’mon”, few fist pumps and the volume was turned down on the grunting that often accompanies her matches as Serena Williams marched into her 11th Wimbledon singles final on Thursday.
Perhaps the imperious American did not need to amp it up against out-matched Czech Barbora Strycova in a 6-1 6-2 trouncing on a sunny Centre Court. It was that easy.
Maybe she is saving the growl for the final against tenacious Romanian former world number one Simona Halep when, for the third time, she will stand one win away from matching Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams singles titles.
But then again, perhaps not.
The 37-year-old has appeared relaxed and stress-free throughout the fortnight in which she has elevated her status as the queen of Wimbledon to greater heights amongst British fans by partnering home hero Andy Murray in the mixed doubles.
There have been a few anxious moments along the way, a couple of dropped sets, but for the most part it has been a smooth ride for Williams who has settled into the groove that has earned her seven Wimbledon singles titles.
The serve is functioning like clockwork, the booming forehand looks potent and her movement is as good as fluid as at any time since she returned to the Tour last March having given birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
The pressure will ramp up in the next 24 hours, especially after falling short in her last two Grand Slam finals — here last year against Angelique Kerber and then, infamously in New York where Serena lost her cool in defeat by Naomi Osaka.
But Williams, who will become the oldest woman in the professional era to contest a Grand Slam final on Saturday, is taking it all in her stride.
“Looking back, to even be in those two finals last year was unbelievable,” the 37-year-old told reporters. “Now I’m in a different place. Like I just am more calm.
“Instead of having nothing to lose, I feel like I have things to lose, but I also have nothing to lose.
“It’s like I’m in the middle. I’m in a different place because I wasn’t really playing a month ago, at all. So it’s all kind of coming together.
“I’m not getting over-pumped, but at the same time not getting under-wound. I have to be in that right space.”
Williams also said the number 24 is becoming an obsession for the media who talk of little else.
“I actually didn’t think about it since it’s really not about 24 or 23 or 25. It’s really just about going out there and giving my best effort no matter what,” she said.
“No matter what I do, I will always have a great career.”
Williams has served 45 aces on her way to the final and won three quarters of points on her first serve.
Ominously for Halep, who has lost nine of her 10 previous matches against Williams, the American 11th seed says there is more to come from her weapon of choice.
“I don’t know if I’ve had my best serves this tournament. I’ve had some big ones,” said Williams, whose fastest delivery so far stands at 122mph. “Two weeks ago in the tournament, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I forgot about my serve’.
“It was kind of back. It felt good.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)