WIMBLEDON — It may seem as though Serena Williams’ place in the Wimbledon final was a foregone conclusion, but it wasn’t.
Not when she was undergoing each of the four surgeries connected to a complicated birth. Not when she was restricted from training because of blood clots in her lungs. Not when she had difficulty walking to the driveway.
How can you hoist the hardware if you can’t even get the mail?
She has come a long way in the last 10 months, and on Thursday, she got a step closer with a 6-2, 6-4 semifinal win over Julia Goerges on the fraying grass of Centre Court.
Williams had beaten her at the French Open this year before withdrawing from the fourth round with an injured pectoral muscle, but to reach a Grand Slam semifinal after what she has been through physically seemed to surprise even her.
“It’s like, c’mon, guys, this is pretty awesome,” Williams said. “To hear people say, ‘Oh, she’s a favorite.’ Like, the last 16 months, I’ve played four tournaments and was carrying another human half that time.”
The Williams on court for this match seemed well in control. Her serve was reliable, and she moved well enough to keep Goerges’ corner-to-corner baseline strategy from being too effective.
“Because she hits the ball hard and finishes the point so early, you can’t make her run enough to see how her fitness is,” WTA founder Billie Jean King said. “That’s the essence.”
Goerges, seeded 13th, got to Williams’ heaviest shots but wasn’t able to direct them back with consistent accuracy.
“Overall, I think she knew how to win that match by her experience, and I didn’t have that stage in my career yet,” Goerges said.
Williams will face No. 11 Angelique Kerber in the final on Saturday. The German defeated No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 6-3, in the first semifinal. Kerber and Williams last met here in the 2016 final, and Williams won in straight sets.
Williams has been upfront with her struggles. After her match, she addressed the anxiety that comes from having pulmonary embolisms, a life-threatening condition that arises when blood clots travel to the lungs.
“It’s mentally very, very difficult,” she said. “I didn’t know I would have such kind of traumatic thoughts, especially now that I have a daughter. I want to be around as long as I can to support her. It’s interesting how that mental recovery is actually taking much longer than I ever expected.”
Williams had a pain in her leg checked by doctors this week, thinking that it might be a clot. She’s had pulmonary embolisms on more than one occasion, and it was part of why Olympia’s birth last Sept. 1 was so complicated.
“Because of all the blood issues I have, I was really touch-and-go for a minute,” Williams said. “I didn’t actually know until after my agent, Jill [Smoller], who is actually more of a friend, but she was saying how much stress it was. I’m glad no one told me at the time I was going through that. Yeah, it was tough.”
To make this run on this stage after everything that has occurred is unprecedented. Even with 23 Grand Slam titles under her belt, the 24th would have been a long shot. Williams was pregnant a year ago, and on Saturday she will attempt to tie Margaret Court’s record in Grand Slam singles titles.
“Yes, this is extraordinarily amazing; this is unbelievably special,” said Smoller, her agent of 18 years. “To me, it has been special . . . This is, to me, one more extra special. This is Serena.”