Friday, 6 July 2012
Serena Williams is making no secret of her desperation to crown one of the most inspiring sporting comebacks with a Venus-equalling fifth Wimbledon title on Saturday.
"I really, really want it," the American superstar said ahead of her championship showdown with Polish history-chaser Agnieszka Radwanska.
Grand slam tennis is littered with heart-warming comeback tales: think Agassi fighting back from the brink and a triple-digit ranking, Capriati's captivating return from an American jail cell to become world No.1 or Clijsters' ecstasy at winning the US Open a year after emerging from retirement to start a family.
And now consider it was little more than one year ago that Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism which the former world No.1 feared could have killed her.
Sixteen months on and Williams has the chance to claim a 14th career major, an incredible feat that would draw the 30-year-old level with fellow American all-time great Pete Sampras's grand slam haul.
"That would be really cool. That's obviously what I want," Williams said.
Already since returning during the 2011 grasscourt season, following a year out recovering from foot surgery and then the ordeal of discovering clots on her lung, Williams also reached - but lost to Samantha Stosur - a US Open final.
Little wonder why she ranks her own comeback from injury and illness equally as Capriati's, Clijsters' or Agassi's.
"It's been amazing," Williams said.
"You know, a year ago I wasn't playing."
Win or lose her seventh Wimbledon final, Williams knows in her heart that she will "get there" - get back to world No.1.
"I feel like this is where I belong," she said.
"I mean, maybe I don't belong in a relationship. Maybe I don't belong somewhere else.
"But I know for a fact I do belong on this tennis court."
The American sixth seed, powered by the most destructive serve in women's tennis and driven by her first-round French Open loss, is the overwhelming final favourite.
The four-times champion broke her own Wimbledon ace record with 24 unreturned bullets to blow past Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in her semi-final.
"I honestly didn't feel great on my serve today. I thought my serve was off, and apparently clearly it wasn't," Williams said in an ominous sign for Radwanska.
Williams's mammoth ace tally eclipsed the 23 she set against Zheng Jie in the third round and left her just four shy of matching her tournament record 89 amassed in last reigning at the All England Club in 2010.
Radwanska, Poland's first grand slam finalist in 73 years, knows she has her work cut out becoming her country's maiden major winner.
But the 23-year-old former Wimbledon junior champion certainly isn't giving up on her dream of a rare title double at the home of tennis.
"Of course I will try everything in my power to hold the trophy again," Radwanska said.
"I played Serena a couple of times, but it was long time ago. She's a very tough opponent and hitting the ball very well.
"Of course she's playing great tennis on the grass. I don't really have anything to lose."
The Pole has the added incentive of rising to world No.1 with a breakthrough grand slam final triumph.
If she loses, Azarenka will return to No.1 following Maria Sharapova's fourth-round demise, a scenario only confirming Williams' belief that she indeed belongs back at the very top.