NEW YORK -- In one sense, Serena Williams' awesomeness should become a green issue. For three more occasions at this U.S. Open, they plan to rev up the stadium, activate the scoreboards and maybe switch on the lights for "matches" involving Williams.
What exactly is the point? Hasn't everyone noticed her in this Serena Summer of 2012, or have they gone to the loo and missed her? You could. She made a blur through the fourth round on Monday in 57 minutes and two bagel sets and a paltry 29 points allowed. She has lost 12 games in four matches here. Think of the wasted electricity. Think of the missed opportunity to practice prudent conservation.
Think of what happened since her jarring first-round loss to Virginie Razzano at the French Open. Serena claims she disposed of that dress and all of her French Open dresses, but ever since, she has disposed of the rest of the tour. She has 23 wins and one inconsequential loss in Cincinnati. She won Wimbledon, the Olympics and another tournament. In the 16 wins since Wimbledon, she has lost zero sets. No set in the Olympics exceeded 6-3 in difficulty. She has beaten the players ranked Nos. 1 (twice), 2, 3, 5 and 9, losing one set of those 12.
"I'm getting back to more my game," she said after the 6-0, 6-0 win on Monday, because in previous rounds she had been so reprehensibly laggard. On Saturday, she won 6-4, 6-0. Before that, she won 6-2, 6-4 after claiming to wake on the wrong side of the bed. We're back to degrees of victory with Serena Williams.
In the crest of her return from her 11-month absence that ended mid-2011, her soundtrack across a 24-match summer has gone like this: "I have never felt better." ... "You know, today I was just playing unbelievably." ... "I was kind of blind today (in a 6-1, 6-2 win).” ... "It's been really a great, fabulous time for me." ... "The older I get, the better I serve, and the more I like to hit aces." ... "That's my latest and greatest thing to do, is hitting four aces in a game. It's awesome." ...
"I love holding up trophies." ... "I'm Serena Williams; I'm very confident." ... "You've got to embrace it whether you're the favorite or the one to beat or whether you are not, and I embrace it." ... "I'm good in the heat. I prefer the heat, so I'm totally fine in the heat." ... "I feel like this is where I belong. I mean, maybe I don't belong in a relationship, maybe I don't belong somewhere else. But I know for a fact I do belong on the tennis court."
And: "I've really appreciated the last few months."
So, as only Serena Williams can, a sole 30-year-old Californian has ransacked and reshaped the whole big bustling tournament here into a case of one (Serena Williams) and the other 127 (people other than Serena Williams). The computer places her at No. 4. Maybe it has a virus.
So, why? Why? Williams is 3-0 against her quarterfinals opponent, the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, including a formulaic 6-3, 6-4 win in the 2011 U.S. Open with Williams' form a shell of the current. After that, she's 3-0 against Sara Errani and 2-0 against Roberta Vinci, including a 6-2, 6-1 rout this year in Miami. After that, for a not-so-prospective final, she's 9-1 against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka including seven straight wins and a 6-1, 6-2 Olympic rout; 9-2 against No. 3 Maria Sharapova, including seven straight wins and romps on clay and grass in 2012, during which Sharapova amassed five games in four sets; 6-3 against defending champion and No. 6 Samantha Stosur, including two straight-set wins this year after a loss in the 2011 U.S. Open final; and 3-1 against No. 11 Marion Bartoli, the only loss an outlier just after Williams' mid-2011 return.
It feels done, as done as done ever gets midway through, done in a way that seems hardly dangerous to note, so luckily there's another dimension: In another sense, Williams' dominance itself has become mesmerizing. You might want to see the dominance just to monitor its extent. Where suspense fails, bedazzlement compensates.
When they do insist upon revving up the stadium, activating the scoreboards and maybe switching on the lights, the paying patrons might see a marvel: the ruthless obliteration of staggeringly good tennis players. Those who love the game will see a service motion that the tennis intellectuals have come to revere and rank among the most fluid ever. Those who don't care much for the game but come just for an event will see an extremely rare athlete at her pinnacle, a player whom Kim Clijsters said: "I mean, what we have seen over the last few months is the best player ever."
No. 1 Azarenka, at Wimbledon: "You know, I don't see anybody else serving like this on the tour." No. 5 Petra Kvitova, at Wimbledon, in charmingly broken English: "It is big difficult." No. 3 Sharapova, at the Olympics: "With every match she's played, she's playing better, hitting harder, so much power on the ball."
And amid all that power, every so often there might come something enough to make you gasp, like the backhand that seared impossibly up the line late in the first set of the 6-0, 6-0 win on Monday. For such sights as that, I guess it would be OK to turn on the lights.