NEW YORK — A year ago at this time, Serena Williams was in the hospital dealing with life-threatening blood clots after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia.
Now she is one victory from claiming her seventh US Open title and her record-tying 24th Grand Slam championship.
No. 17-seeded Serena cruised into Saturday’s women’s final after winning 12 of the final 13 games in a 6-3, 6-0 destruction of No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova in the semifinals Thursday night. Serena will play the winner between No. 14 Madison Keys and No. 20 Naomi Osaka. Both semis were played with the roof closed and the air ventilation system on due to rain. That made for refreshing conditions after two weeks of brutal heat at the Open.
“It’s honestly really incredible,” Williams, who turns 37 later this month, said on court. “A year ago I was literally fighting for my life in the hospital after I had the baby. After I step on this court I’m so grateful that I have an opportunity to play this sport. No matter what happens in any match, semis or finals, I just feel like I’ve already won.”
Serena, considered by many the GOAT of women’s tennis, is now one win from tying Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam titles. Williams missed her chance to tie Court when she lost in the Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber earlier this summer.
Williams improved to 31-5 in Grand Slam semifinals. She is 23-7 finals. Perhaps more impressive, she has won eight Grand Slam titles since turning 30, winning each major title twice.
Asked if Williams is currently the best player in the world, Sevastova said, “It’s tough to say. She played finals in Wimbledon. She’s playing finals here. Obviously, I think this year is not bad for her. She has 23 Grand Slams so she’s one of the best, yeah.”
After dropping the first two games of the match, Williams roared back to dominate Sevastova, capitalizing on 5-of-10 break chances, converting 31 winners against 20 unforced errors and winning 24 of 28 points at the net (86 percent).
“Well, I’ve been working hard on my volleys,” Serena said. “I have won a few doubles championships so I know how to volley. I just usually come in to shake hands but tonight I knew that if I wanted to have a chance against Anastasija, I would have to come in. I wanted to try something different tonight and it worked in my favor.”
Sevastova said it was a smart play.
“I think she should come to the net, for sure,” Sevastova said. “She’s making more pressure coming to the net.”
At nearly 37 and now the mother of a one-year-old, Williams has no plans to stop playing tennis anytime soon. She is especially grateful for where she is now given her health scare a year ago.
“Anything for me is a win,” she said. “To come this far so fast and I’m just beginning, you guys. This has only been a few months. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year and next year. I’m really looking forward to the possibilities. This is just the beginning and I’m really looking forward to that.”