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Liguori: Like Fine Wine, Serena Gets Better With Age

Williams Finally Healthy And At Her Best
Serena Williams of the United States hugs the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus to win the women's singles final match of the 2012 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2012.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)

Serena Williams of the United States hugs the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus to win the women’s singles final match of the 2012 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2012. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)

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By Ann Liguori
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Serena Williams gets better with age – physically and mentally. The 30-year-old (she turns 31 on September 26), needed three sets and a rally in the third set to win her 4th US Open title, her 15th Grand Slam singles championship over top seed Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. Serena has now won the US Open in three decades, the first as a 17-year-old, in 1999.

Serena is the first 30-year-old to win the U.S. Open since Martina Navratilova in 1987.

Despite a shaky serve and missed shots to the tune of 45 unforced errors, Serena was able to stage a comeback, win four straight games in the third set and break Azarenka again in the 12th game to close out the match. The second set Serena dropped was the first set Serena lost in the entire tournament. Serena did not play the cleanest match, and yet, she was still able to fight back and win (with a little help from Azarenka, who could not close out the match on her serve, when she was up 5-4, making several unforced errors in that game).

As Serena approaches the twilight years when most professional tennis players think about calling it a career, Serena’s game looks stronger than ever and she’s been 100 per cent healthy for an extended time for the first time in a long time. Serena knows she has a lot more titles she can win, perhaps wanting to make up for lost time and aiming to pass Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s mark at 18 Grand Slam single’s titles and Steffi Graf’s mark at 22. Margaret Court holds the all-time record of most Grand Slam single’s titles at 24.

After a painful first round loss at the French Open this past June to a player ranked 111th, Serena said “I have never been so miserable after a loss. I pulled it together… Sometimes, they say, it’s good to lose.” She hired a new coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, trained in Paris and ‘voila,’ what we’ve seen is a more mature and composed Serena.

Perhaps it’s all the adversity that Serena has had to deal with in her career and life which has made her stronger and hungrier.

In 2003, Serena missed eight months after having surgery on her left knee. Serena and her family also endured the pain of losing her oldest sister Yetunde who was murdered, shot dead in the crime-ridden Los Angeles suburb of Compton, where the Williams grew up.

Two years ago after winning Wimbledon, she underwent two operations on her right foot after stepping on glass while leaving a restaurant in Germany. Then she suffered the blood clots in her lungs which caused other health issues.

All that is behind her now. With the Wimbledon title this year, another Gold Medal in singles and in doubles, and now, a fourth U.S. Open title, we’re seeing an older, even better Serena Williams!

Be sure to follow Ann on twitter@annliguori, on www.facebook.com/annliguori and at www.annliguori.com

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