LONDON • A loud and brash Red Arrows flypast over Wimbledon's Court One provided a timely distraction on Saturday night, allowing the real Serena Williams to finally show up at the All England Club this year.
Before the unexpected interruption, there definitely seemed to be something amiss.
The impostor who had turned up in London looked like Williams and sounded like Williams but was definitely not playing like a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion.
How else would one explain her dropping a set against Kaja Juvan, a 133rd-ranked qualifier from Slovenia, in the second round, or squandering three break points from 40-0 up against Julia Gorges in their third-round meeting on Saturday?
But once the plumes of smoke left behind by the aerobatic flight display team had painted the overcast sky red, white and blue, Williams' competitive fires began to burn brightly as she fought her way to a 6-3, 6-4 win over the world No. 17 German, reaching the second week of Wimbledon for the 16th time.
"It's been an arduous year for me so every match I'm hoping to improve. Every time I go out there, I try," said Williams, whose build-up to the grass-court major had been hampered by a knee injury.
16 Times Serena Williams has reached the second week at the All England Club.
"I'm getting a really late start (in all of my matches here so far but) all that matters is that I am still here."
Being in the fourth-round mix means it is still game on for the record-equalling 24th singles Slam title, alongside Australia's Margaret Court, that has been elusive over the past year - when final appearances at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows proved to be lost causes.
While the American would have been reasonably confident going into her match-up with Gorges, having beaten her in straight sets in their four previous meetings, her opponent initially proved to be a hard nut to crack. But, as if on cue, the Red Arrows shot through the sky just as Gorges was about to begin serving in the sixth game.
While the crowd looked skywards, Williams had only Gorges in her sights, immediately breaking for a 4-2 lead before unleashing her trademark roar at Court One.
Afterwards, she joined Britain's most famous tennis son, Andy Murray, in the mixed doubles before rolling to a 6-4, 6-1 debut first-round win over Alex Guarachi and Andreas Mies.
But even after bagging her second victory of the day, all Williams could talk about were the nerves.
"This match is so hyped that I didn't even want to be in it, I kind of just wanted to watch it," she added.
Next up in the singles' competition for the 11th seed is Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
Should the seven-time Wimbledon champion get past her last-16 opponent today - she has never lost in six previous meetings - and if world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty wins her 16th consecutive singles match against unseeded Alison Riske, then the pair will face off in what will be a blockbuster quarter-final.
Day 7: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 6pm