MASON, Ohio -- Warning to the WTA field: Much of Serena Williams' domination over the last month and a half -- a 17-0 record with a title at Wimbledon and gold medal in the Olympics -- wasn't even on her favorite surface. It turns out we are just now entering the sweet spot of the year for Serena, and she's already firing off warning shots in case the rest of the field isn't intimidated enough.
"Hard is my favorite surface, so we're now entering my realm, which I've had lots of success on," Williams said. "I actually never really liked grass, really. It's never been my favorite surface. Now I like it. But I love hard courts."
Then again, this is a woman who only a few months ago said clay was actually her favorite surface. And for 17 matches, during which she went undefeated on clay of every color, it was. Then came the reckoning at the French Open, where a loss to Virginie Razzano marked Williams' first defeat in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament.
Having gone undefeated since then, though, Williams is now all jokes when it comes to assessing her quick exit from Roland Garros, her only loss in the last 35 matches.
"I was like, OK, Serena, you want to play Roland Garros -- which I actually didn't play this year -- so you're going to play some clay-court tournaments and then take Roland Garros off, and then you'll play Wimbledon and Stanford," she said.
Of course we know that Serena did play Roland Garros, and that the loss to Razzano shook her to the core. But she rebounded at Wimbledon to win her 14th major title, remaining three shy of Roger Federer because he won at the All England Club, too.
"I don't have any plans of retiring or stopping anytime soon, so I'm just trying to catch up with Roger," Williams said. "I was close, and I won Wimbledon and he won Wimbledon. I was like, How am I ever going to catch up with you if you keep winning?"
Serena will have a chance to grab her second straight major title in two weeks at the U.S. Open. But first comes her only true warm-up tournament for New York, the Western & Southern Open, where Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are absent and a favorable draw filled with qualifiers in her section awaits.
As for the U.S. Open, Williams said the last few years have taught her to be prepared for anything. In the 2009 semifinals, Williams was penalized a point on match point for Kim Clijsters for verbal abuse of a line judge who called a foot fault against Serena. In last year's loss to Sam Stosur in the final, Williams berated a chair umpire after a hindrance call cost her a point.
"My mind frame this year is that something is going to happen for sure because something always happens to me at the Open, whether it's a horrendous line call that's 2 feet in or whether it's a grunt and I get a point penalized," Williams said. "Or a foot fault when I actually don't foot fault. I'm prepared for something to happen. "Hopefully if I get to the semifinals or finals, I'm really prepared and really going to count -- I'm going to try to make it to 10," she said, laughing as she spoke of her temper. "But if I don't, I don't, you know, hey. I can't stop who I am, you know. I'm definitely going to start one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and see how far I get."