Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — On September 8, 2001, Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open championship to her older sister, Venus, in the inaugural primetime women’s final.
Three days later, the world changed forever when terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center towers.
Ten years later, Serena will return to another U.S. Open final after she completely dismantled Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 1 player in the world, 6-2, 6-4, closing out the match with a forehand winner and then leaping into the air on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
“It really meant a lot to me to come out here as an American and still be in the tournament,” said Williams, who was 19 when the 9/11 attacks took place.
“I really want to play [Sunday] on such a special day for the United States, so I’m really excited.”
Serena will face Australian Samantha Stosur in the final after Stosur beat unseeded Angelique Kerber of Germany, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in an earlier match on the Grandstand court. Stosur was finished long before Williams even began her match because the men’s semifinals delayed the Serena-Wozniack match by more than two hours.
Williams is seeking her 14th career major title and her fourth U.S. Open crown.
Williams missed nearly a year of action after she underwent two foot surgeries and then suffered blood clots in her lungs that she said nearly killed her. She came in as the No. 28 seed because of inactivity.
Yet since returning to the hard courts this summer, she has been unbeatable. She has won 18 straight matches on hard courts and hasn’t dropped a set at the U.S. Open.
“It’s been such an arduous long road, but i can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe it. I really can’t.”
Wozniacki, still seeking her first career major despite holding the No. 1 ranking for 46 straight weeks, was on the defensive all match.
Serena repeatedly attacked, winning 17 of her 21 net approaches.
“Usually I only come to the net to shake hands, but today it was something different,” Serena said.
Serena banged out 11 aces while double-faulting four times. Wozniacki had just one ace and two double-faults.
“You feel like you’re in the game and then bam, bam, you’re not in the game anymore,” Wozniacki said of facing Serena’s serve.
The enduring image of Wozniacki in this match was of her stretching and sprawling while trying to catch up to Williams’s powerful groundstrokes and volleys. Serena produced 34 winners and 34 unforced errors.
Wozniacki, who played much of the match from well behind the baseline, managed just five winners against 12 unforced errors.
“[Wozniacki] is not going to win a Grand Slam until she gets a big shot,” Australian tennis legend Fred Stolle told American Express earlier in the tournament. “She doesn’t have that big shot that she can get cheap points with.”
Wozniacki continues to defend her No. 1 ranking, but it is clear to everyone that when healthy, Serena is the best player in the game.
Now, however, she must turn around in fewer than 24 hours and face Stosur, an attacking player who owns three career wins over Serena in their seven matches, including once in the quarterfinals of the 2010 French Open.
“I think the one good thing is that one of the matches I beat Serena was actually in a Grand Slam,” said Stosur, who lost her only other Grand Slam singles final to Francesca Schiavone in the 2010 French Open.
“So I think that’s obviously a big, you know, confidence booster.”
Still, Serena will enter as the heavy favorite and will have the added emotion of trying to win as an American on 9/11.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.