After some struggles earlier this year, Serena Williams has willed herself back into form this summer, and on Friday afternoon she looked back to her magnificent best, reaching a fourth straight US Open final by blowing away Ekaterina Makarova in under an hour.
By reaching the final, Williams also qualified for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global - the first player to do so. At the start of the summer, few would have predicted that the American would usurp Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep to claim the first spot in Singapore, but then she has made a career out of confounding the critics.
The turnaround began in Stanford, where although not always at her fluent best, Williams took home the title to begin banishing the memories of her early exits at the French Open and Wimbledon.
"I feel like I'm on the right track again. I feel like I can play even better, but I think I'm getting there," Williams said after triumphing in Stanford. "It would definitely be great if I could do the same at the US Open, but right now I'm just focused on the next tournament."
In an unusually busy summer, this next tournament came the following week, in Montréal, where her title defense ended in the semifinals at the hands of her sister, Venus. Unperturbed by this setback, in Cincinnati she continued to reel in Sharapova and Halep at the top of the WTA Finals leaderboard by picking up one of the few significant titles to have eluded her.
"My first day of practice in Cincinnati, something just clicked - I was playing better, and I was serving better too. I really don't know - I think all the hard work was just paying off. It's definitely a better level than I've played all year and is a level that could take me to the US Open title," she said in the build-up to the US Open.
Yet for all this success, her failures in Melbourne, Paris and London meant that a few questions still hung over Williams heading into New York. These have been answered in emphatic fashion, as Williams has waltzed through the draw to return to another Grand Slam final and another WTA Finals.