2018 Year in Review:
Ashley Marshall | December 3, 2018
Love-15: As 2018 draws to a close, USTA.com is taking a look back at the top 15 storylines, headlines and highlights from the year in American tennis. Now up, Serena's highly anticipated return, which began tentatively in North Carolina and culminated in a US Open final in New York.
Just five months after giving birth to daughter Olympia, Serena Williams stepped on court alongside big sister Venus in the final match of Team USA's Fed Cup quarterfinal win over the Netherlands in Asheville, N.C. The doubles result, an eventual loss after the U.S. had already advanced to the semifinals, was an afterthought, much like Serena's exhibition against Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi had been two months earlier. But the buzz surrounding the U.S. Cellular Center for her return was electric, and the sold-out Asheville crowd was another reminder of the champion's immense star power.
The fact that Serena, with husband and baby courtside, was back hitting balls was a remarkable feat in itself, amplified by the post-birth complications and medical difficulties she experienced just days after welcoming her daughter into the world.
The 23-time women's Grand Slam singles champion kept her own on-court expectations low, despite her inner fighter always wanting to be fully capable of winning any event she played.
Serena returned to the WTA Tour in Indian Wells in March, beating world No. 53 Zarina Diyas in straight sets in her first official tour-level match in more than 14 months. In total, Serena played 25 matches over seven tournaments, going 15-2 at the Grand Slam level and reaching the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open. Few people attain that level of success, even when healthy. So the fact that Serena, who documented her post-labor struggles in a five-part, all-access HBO docuseries, was able to reassert herself near the top of the sport so quickly only strengths her sure-fire Hall of Fame credentials.
Since 2013, only Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka have each reached multiple major finals in the same year. Serena has now accomplished the feat four times in those same six years. And although her remarkable return did not have a fairytale ending in the Big Apple, Serena left no doubt that tennis' newest mother is still able to compete at the very highest level.
Serena will finish the season at No. 16 in the world. No other player inside the Top 300 has played fewer events over the past 12 months than Serena has, and 11 of the 15 players directly above her in the rankings have played at least twice as many tournaments. With few points to defend in the first four months of 2019, and a full three months of rest since the 2018 US Open, expect to see Serena back inside the Top 10 before the clay-court season rolls around in the spring.
For more American tennis highlights from 2018, be sure to check out our Year in Review page here.