Serena Williams is almost back where she started in more ways than one. Not only is the U.S. Open the first Grand Slam Williams had ever won but also where her excellent 2012 season began a year ago.
She didn't win the 2011 U.S. Open, but her loss to Samantha Stosur in the final match ended a year of Grand Slam irrelevance on her part. Even without the victory, Williams appeared ready to compete on the world stage again in Arthur Ashe Stadium last year.
Winning this year's final summer tournament would be an ideal cap on a superb season. At 30 years old, Williams has found new life in her career.
She's playing like the player from three years ago, and any final scenario that doesn't include her just seems wrong.
After winning her fifth career Wimbledon title in July, Williams rolled to a gold medal victory in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She lost to Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open, but that doesn't halt her massive momentum.
It was merely a minor hiccup.
Williams has a chance to deliver her fourth, and sweetest, U.S. Open championship in the coming days. She's playing like the "old" Williams. When Williams hits the ball with consistency, her sheer physical dominance is too much for most female singles players to handle.
Watching Williams beat Radwanska handily in the Wimbledon final—and do the same to Sharapova in London's gold medal match—was mind-blowing. Williams has found the second wind that elite athletes covet.
Winning a fourth U.S. Open title would be the ideal finish to a magical summer for this iconic talent, and it's hard to imagine her being denied. She's focused, hungry and playing as well as she ever has.
That's a dangerous combination for anyone standing in her path.