WIMBLEDON — Serena Williams lost the first set in her Wimbledon quarterfinal Tuesday on Centre Court. It is only her fourth tournament back after having her daughter Olympia, and unseeded Camila Giorgi was not backing down. Williams could say she had a good run, an improvement on her French Open performance by a round, and walk away with her head held high.
But that’s not what happened.
Williams herself felt an odd sense of calm, something she isn’t entirely used to but that was welcome. The match didn’t seem out of hand to the 25th seed; she felt good about her game, and her chances.
“Sometimes I feel, ‘Man, I’m in trouble.’ Sometimes I feel, I can fight,” Williams said. “For whatever reason, today I was so calm. Even when I was down the first set, I thought, ‘Well, she’s playing great. I’m doing a lot of the right things.’ It is what it is.”
What happened next was vintage Williams, the one who hates losing, the one who has 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name. She used a combination of her serve and devastatingly heavy groundstrokes to push back the Italian and reach the semifinal with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win. She even hit her first serve to top 120 mph since returning, a 122-mph ace.
And that’s how the 36-year-old became one of the last four women contesting for the title. Joining her will be No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 13 Julia Goerges and No. 11 Angelique Kerber. Williams will play Goerges on Thursday.
As many upsets as there were in the women’s draw, those semifinalists are four names tennis fans will know well.
Kerber might be the most familiar, since the 30-year-old won the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open. She defeated No. 14 Dina Kasatkina, 6-3, 7-5, on Tuesday in a tough match, but not before the 21-year-old Latvian delighted the Centre Court crowd with her creative shot-making.
“I was expecting a match like this,” Kerber said. “I think for me it was important to be playing aggressive, trying to take the challenge how she was playing, as well, trying to move good, bringing a lot of balls back, trying also to accept how good she is playing.”
Ostapenko played an aggressive baseline style to defeat Domenika Cibulkova, 7-5, 6-4. And despite her youth, at age 21 Ostapenko is no stranger to Grand Slam titles, having won the French Open in 2017.
“I knew I had to play aggressive because if not otherwise she had all the opportunities to go for winners,” Ostapenko said. “I was just trying to go for the shots when I had to. Of course, at the beginning I didn’t start the match that well, but then I felt my game, played more confident.”
Goerges, 29, reached the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career with a win over No. 20 Kiki Bertens, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
“Well, probably I don’t have many words today to describe the moment I’m going through right now,” Goerges said. “It’s pretty unreal for me at the moment to get to that stage at a Grand Slam..”
She’ll face Williams, who said after her three-setter that she didn’t feel the least bit fatigued. And Williams didn’t play like it either. In the post-match interview with the BBC she said she felt like she was really back.
“To be here, to be in the semifinals,” Williams said, “I mean, I always say I plan on it, I would like to be there, have these goals. But when it actually happens, it still is, like, wow, this is really happening.”