Serena Williams celebrates winning the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open in her quest for a Grand Slam. (Photo: USATSI)

Serena Williams celebrates winning the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open in her quest for a Grand Slam. (Photo: USATSI)

After serving 26 years, 11 months and 9 days, today is my last day in the U.S. Army Reserves. While traveling from Maryland to New York’s Fort Hamilton, I thought what better way to celebrate than to watch Serena Williams play amazing tennis in her journey to be the first to win a Grand Slam in a quarter-century.

I did not have tickets for the “sold out” event at the U.S. Open on Friday, but decided to think positive and head to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens.

My positive thinking paid off. Even though I ended up in the top most section of the stadium, I enjoyed being seated at center line. It didn’t matter that I had a $70 ticket vs. a $475 ticket, because every seat in the stadium seemed like a good one. It was easy to observe Serena’s lean, athletic form powerfully serving or volleying.

Serena appeared tense and nervous for at least an entire set. Several returns landed outside of the court, which seemed to frustrate her. Her opponent, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, won the first set and was momentarily tied in the second one, 5-5.

Eventually, Serena’s body looked more relaxed, and she responded with a smash here and there, 100+ mph serves and angled volleys that Mattek-Sands either didn’t see or could not respond to fast enough.

It seemed that the grunts and “umph” sounds that Serena made, her intense focus in the way that she readies herself before returning serves and her chair rituals on breaks helped her get back on track. She even pumped her fist while on the ground in a split to celebrate winning a third-round point.

Serena also drew strength from the crowd. At least once, she turned to the fans for support. The match was over in a flash once Serena turned things around, preventing an upset by winning 3-6, 7-5, 6-0.

Also see: “Could This Be Serena’s Best Year?” and “15 Fiercest Sisters.”



Serena’s Next Step to Making More History

Serena Williams is playing Madison Keys Sunday afternoon in the fourth round of the U.S. Open (live on ESPN2). She beat Keys during the semi-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. The match follows her sister Venus’ victory against Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 6-1. The Williams sisters could face each other in the quarter-finals.

If Serena takes it all, it would be the seventh Grand Slam since Steffi Graf’s in 1988 — four consecutive wins of major tournaments in a single calendar year. So far, Serena has won Wimbledon as well as the Australian and French Opens. A back-to-back win in New York, or Serena Slam, would also tie Graf’s record of 22 U.S. Open titles.

At age 21, Serena won a career slam in singles, winning the four major Grand Slam tournaments between 1999 and 2003. She and Venus also won a career slam in doubles between 1999 and 2001, as did Althea Gibson between 1956 and 1957 with three different partners. (Updated 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015)