Serena Williams tremendous rallies from down a set, and then down 4-1 in the final set made her the No. 1 women’s tennis player ever at 31. She passes Chris Evert, who was No. 1 for a few weeks to get within a month of her 31st birthday before losing the top spot.
Williams, who had dominated women’s tennis for several months until an ankle injury led to her early exit in the Australian Open, had taken less than an hour to win her previous match. Petra Kvitova made it clear she would be a tougher challenge.
Petra Kvitova, who was the defending Wimbledon championship when Williams ousted her from Wimbledon last year, dominated early play and it looked like Evert’s record might be in tact. Kvitova’s overpowering serve and backhand let her take control of the match early.
However, Kvitova double faulted to let Williams get back in the third set 3-4. Williams broke her again with a cross-court shot to take the lead in the third set 6-5, and then won the final game on her 14th ace to make it to the semifinals and guarantee she will be No. 1 in the world after this tournament with a final win of 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Chris Evert defeated Martina Navratilova in the 1985 French Open and rose to No. 1, but lost the top ranking in November 1985, less than a month before she turned 31. Evert became the oldest French Open champion when she defeated Navratilova again in 1986 (2-6, 6-3, 6-3), but she never regained the No. 1 ranking.