Delay doesn’t slow Williams

She had already endured the trip from hell, what was another 30 feet?

Serena Williams bolted


She had already endured the trip from hell, what was another 30 feet?

Serena Williams bolted from the baseline to barely get her racket under a devilish drop shot by Martina Hingis and put it away for a backhand passing-shot winner and a key point on Tuesday night.

Mustering energy from somewhere, Williams won the matchup of former world No. 1 players, 5-3, in the fourth set to help the Washington Kastles defeat the New York Sportimes, 21-20, in World TeamTennis at UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena.

Because of flight delays, Will­iams, who this week dropped to No. 175 during what is a difficult comeback from a variety of health problems, needed 12 hours to get from Tampa to Albany.

She was whisked from Albany International straight to SEFCU Arena, did a quick warmup and played three sets, two of which Washington won.

“It was a really long day, but, at last, I arrived,” she said with relief.

Williams was supposed to have played Hingis last year at the Glens Falls Civic Center, but she had a foot injury suffered when she stepped on glass during a party in Munich, Germany, on her way back from having won Wimbledon.

She appeared on court with the Kastles and was on the bench, but couldn’t play.

Now, she’s on the road to recovery from a pulmonary embolism that wiped out the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

Upon winning a first-round match at Wimbledon, just her second tournament since coming back, she broke down in tears.

“Obviously, I’ve been through a lot and have had some experiences that are no fun,” she said. “I just always have to keep that in mind, when I’m really hard on myself, as to why I don’t think I’m doing better.”

The vagaries of air travel put her appearance in jeopardy this time.

Not only did she eventually make it to the arena, but she felt spry enough to play mixed doubles in the first set, team with Rennae Stubbs to beat Hingis and Katie O’Brien in women’s doubles and beat Hingis in singles.

“They had mixed first, and they were going to play Rennae, and I kind of wanted to play, and I said, ‘I’ll play, I’ll play,’ ” Williams said.

“I was a little off. There was a lot of errors, but I came through. It was OK.”

“She played really well,” Hingis said. “I felt like I played really well. Some of the passing shots were pretty much the key in that set.”

Williams and Hingis traded breaks early, then got back on serve to get to 3-3.

Williams held, 4-1, to go up, 4-3, and put the set away aided by a defensive backhand passing shot that turned into a winner for a 3-1 lead. She closed out the set on the next point after a long rally.

“I love playing Martina,” Will­iams said. “She’s such a great player, and more than anything, she’s great practice for me coming up to these tournaments coming up.”

Williams and Hingis last played a WTA singles match against each other 10 years ago.

Williams owns a 7-6 record head-to-head.

They’ve played each other in a Grand Slam three times.

Williams beat Hingis at the U.S. Open twice, in the 1999 final, 6-3, 7-6, and in the 2001 semifinals,

6-3, 6-2.

Hingis beat Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open that year, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6.

A flawless travel day would have landed Williams in Albany at 2 p.m.

She was on an 8:30 a.m. commercial flight from Tampa, Fla., to Charlotte, N.C.

Because of a mechanical problem with her plane out of Charlotte, she was re-routed to Washington, D.C., where she arrived in time to join Kastles owner Mark Ein for his flight on a private jet to Albany to watch the match.

That flight was held up by thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area.

They finally got off the ground at 6:16 p.m.

Williams got separated from her luggage on a different flight, but had a Kastles uniform and her tennis gear with her.

Wearing the Kastles’ red ballcap, blue long-sleeved T-shirt and red skirt, Williams jogged out of the tunnel onto the SEFCU Arena court with her teammates for pre-match introductions at 7:50 and received a standing ovation.

“Mark said, ‘We’re just going to have to can Albany,’ and I was like, ‘No, I had it last year, and I’m going to make it this time.’ ” Will­iams said. “It’s good to be back, and I love playing. I really enjoyed myself out there.”

The 29-year-old Williams understandably was rusty in the first set, mixed doubles with Leander Paes, and wasn’t precise with her shots.

They fell behind, 3-0, before Will­iams held serve, ripping one on game point that Hingis returned wide.

Williams put together nice back-to-back slicing backhand volleys, one wide, and the other down the other sideline for a winner to tie the set at 3-3.

Williams held again with another hard serve that Hingis flailed at and only nicked with the end of her racket to tie the set at 4-4.

Hingis, playing with Travis Parrott, put together a series of brilliant volleys to win the tiebreaker, 5-1.

In the second set, women’s doubles, Williams and Stubbs took a 3-0 lead and closed it out on Stubbs’ serve, 5-2, for a 9-7 Kastles lead in the match.

New York won the fifth set, 5-2, to force a supertiebreaker, which the Kastles won, 7-6.

Washington Kastles 21,

New York Sportimes 20 (supertiebreaker)

Mixed doubles: Martina Hingis-Travis Parrott (NY) def. Leander Paes-Serena Will­iams, 5-4; Women’s doubles: Williams-Rennae Stubbs (W) def. Hingis-Katie O’Brien, 5-2; Men’s singles: Jesse Witten (NY) def. Bobby Reynolds, 5-4; Women’s singles: Will­iams (W) def. Hingis, 5-3; Men’s doubles: Parrott-Witten (NY) def. Paes-Reynolds, 5-2; Supertiebreaker: Paes-Reynolds (W) def. Parrott-Witten, 1-0 (7-6).

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