When it comes to her health this year, Serena Williams just can’t catch a break.
Williams rolled her left ankle holding a match point against Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open in January and ended up relinquishing a 5-1 advantage in the third set of their quarterfinal.
Then came illness in Indian Wells in March, a troublesome — and lingering — knee injury and back spasms in Toronto last month that forced her to retire in the final against one of 2019’s breakout tennis stars, Bianca Andreescu.
If all that wasn’t enough, Williams rolled her right ankle at the US Open Sunday against 22nd-seed Petra Martic.
It came at 2-2 in the second set after Williams just hit a volley at the net.
“I was like, instantly, no, this can’t happen,” Williams said after Sunday’s match. “I’m finally healthy.”
And even though the 37-year-old ended up prevailing 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals — her 99th win at the US Open in her career — she worryingly needed a medical timeout.
How thus will the ankle hold up as Williams continues her bid to collect a record-tying 24th grand slam title?
“So far I’m good,” Williams said. “I have been managing it. We’ll see tomorrow.”
In the short term, she’ll face maiden grand slam quarterfinalist Wang Qiang of China, who upset French Open winner and No. 2 Ashleigh Barty.
It had all been going so well for Williams, too.
Great start for Williams
The American struck winner after winner in the first set, 21 in total, to just seven unforced errors against a gifted, tenacious competitor having the finest season of her career.
Not long after the opening set came the injury.
Williams went on to win the next point after her fall and broke for 3-2 but glanced worryingly at her player box that included mom Oracene Price, husband Alexis Ohanian — the Reddit co-founder — and coach Patrick Mouratoglou. The medical timeout ensued.
Williams didn’t win another point on serve — losing 10 in a row — after her injury against Pliskova in Melbourne and duly struck a double fault into the net on her first point on serve following Sunday’s tweak.
Yet there would no repeat of the outcome, with Williams holding for 4-2 and never letting the lead slip.
She raised her arms in celebration after the win: Williams not only overcame Martic but the ankle injury. How Williams’ ankle feels on Tuesday will be a pertinent question.
Earlier on Sunday, Williams posted a photo on Instagram from after she gave birth to her daughter two years ago to the day, writing, “The last 2 years have been my greatest accomplishment.”
But don’t expect to see her at her mother’s matches anytime soon.
“She’s a little bit loud and obnoxious right now, so I’m not sure she should come to the matches,” Williams said. “I’m hoping, like, next year she’ll be at an age where she can sit — maybe I’ll start at smaller tournaments and see how she does and go from there. Also, she’s still napping and so it’s hard.”
Meanwhile, Pliskova, the 2016 finalist in New York and No. 3 seed, fell to French Open semifinalist Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-5, surrendering a set and 3-1 advantage.
Federer now cruising
But Roger Federer is now breezing after a slight hiccup in the first two rounds, crushing pal David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.
The flashy Goffin upset Federer at the year-end World Tour Finals in London in 2017 but admitted facing the huge crowd favorite in the largest regularly used tennis stadium in the world was much more difficult.
“Sometimes you’re like, ‘OK, I’m feeling maybe ready now to make a good match against him, try to make some good things on the court,'” Goffin, 1-9 vs. Federer, told reporters.
“But as soon as you are there, first match on (Arthur) Ashe against him, you can feel all the 20,000 people are behind him as soon as he hit the ball. All of a sudden every shot is 10 times tougher than usually.
“All of a sudden what you felt the day before during practice or the last matches, it feels completely different.”