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Serena Williams proves semi-tough at Wimbledon

She rallies after dropping first set to position herself to win first major as a mother

If there was any panic among fans of Serena Williams as she dropped the first set of her Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Camila Giorgi, that angst definitely didn’t carry onto the court and into the mind of the world’s greatest tennis player.

“I said, ‘All right,’ ” said Williams, who hadn’t dropped a set the entire tournament before Tuesday. “ ‘Let’s go three sets.’ ”

Seventeen months ago, Williams won her last major, the 2017 Australian Open, while pregnant.

On Tuesday, Williams was one step closer to winning her first major as a mother, as she came back from a set down to beat Giorgi (3-6, 6-3, 6-4) to advance to the Wimbledon semifinals.

This journey that Williams is taking tennis fans on since her return earlier this year has been pretty spectacular considering:

  • In February, in her first competitive match in more than a year, she moved slowly while playing a Fed Cup doubles match with her sister, Venus.
  • In March, she lost in the first round of the Miami Open to Naomi Osaka, leading to a hasty exit in which she bypassed a postmatch media session.
  • In June, she was a match away from the French Open quarterfinals before withdrawing from the tournament an hour before her anticipated match against Maria Sharapova. The issue: a pectoral injury that, at the time, left some doubts that she could play at Wimbledon.

Yet here Williams is, getting stronger and moving better with every match. In Giorgi, Williams was facing an opponent who was young (26), strong and playing, perhaps, the best tennis of her career. In a tournament where the top 10 women’s players have been eliminated, Giorgi hadn’t faced a seeded player since her first-round win over No. 21 Anastasija Sevastova.

Giorgi, when asked going into the match against Williams whether she would watch her opponent on tape, responded, “I don’t follow tennis, women’s tennis.”

She probably should have done her homework on Williams, who crushed the upset-minded Italian after dropping the first set. Williams has more wins in a major after losing a first set (39) than any other player in the women’s Open era (Chris Evert has 28 and Venus Williams has 27).

Giorgi appeared a bit salty — maybe that’s her normal demeanor — as she shook hands with Williams at the net after the match and quickly grabbed her bag and walked off the court.

“It was great matches,” Giorgi said in her postmatch news conference. “I think it’s a great week.”

Williams, asked whether she’s felt any pressure during this tournament, said, “This is only my fourth tournament back. I don’t feel pressure; I don’t feel like I have to win this.

“I’m just here just to be here, and to prove that I’m back,” Williams added. “I feel like I’m back, but I still have a long way to go to get to where I was.”

That was winning majors, and Williams enters the semifinals as the lowest-seeded player (25th) remaining in this year’s Wimbledon tournament.

Her opponent on Friday, Julia Goerges, is seeded 13th. Williams hasn’t lost a set against Goerges in three previous matches, including a victory last month at the French Open (6-3, 6-4) in the round of 32.

Against the other two players in the semifinals, Williams has never played No. 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko and has won six of her eight matches against Angelique Kerber, the No. 11 seed.

Here’s the reason Williams has emerged as a favorite: She has seven Wimbledon titles, while the rest of the field has zero.

The Queen is back, with Tuesday’s win guaranteeing that she will jump from 181 to at least 51 when the new rankings are announced next week.

When Williams was asked her expectations after winning her first match at Wimbledon in two years, she said, “Not only do I expect to win, I expect to win emphatically.”

Williams has won her first five matches against unseeded opponents.

Williams needs to beat two seeded opponents to win her 24th major title, tying Margaret Court’s record for Grand Slam wins.

Williams, for the first time since her comeback, appears to have her body and mind aligned to take that next step.

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at The Undefeated. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.