By Mark Preston
One of the biggest questions heading into this year’s Emirates Airline US Open Series is one of the biggest questions heading into pretty much every WTA event in which she plays: Can anybody stop Serena Williams?
Williams, who captured the women’s Series crown last year (and in two of the last three seasons), is obviously a force to be reckoned with on every surface, but her punishing power game translates particularly well on hard courts, as evidenced by her career 341-47 record on cement.
Of Williams’ 17 Grand Slam singles crowns, 10 have been won on hard courts. The five-time US Open champion’s greatest strength is that she has no discernible weakness, and her big serve and relentless ground offensive are especially lethal hard-court weapons, allowing her to dictate points with her power and move flawlessly atop the sure footing provided by a solid surface.
In winning the 2013 Series title, Williams captured the crown in Toronto without dropping a set and then reached the final in Cincinnati before losing to Victoria Azarenka in a third-set tiebreak, one of only three career losses Williams has suffered to the Belarussian. Of course, Williams then went on to beat Azarenka in the US Open final, claiming the $1 million bonus awarded the Series winner who can also master the Flushing fortnight.
Still, those three losses to Azarenka all came on hard courts, so in theory, it is possible to take down the game’s No. 1 on cement. Probable? That’s an entirely different story. As is the case throughout any given season, when Williams in on her game, she’s the closest thing to invincible the sport has to offer. And for a player who looks to peak at the majors, that road leading to Flushing is one she expects to accelerate on.
“For me [the Series events] are more than just tune-ups, they really give you a great gauge on how you're going to play and how it's going to be [at the US Open],” she said. “So it's always exciting to win the US Open Series. It’s something that I really look forward to.”