FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Serena Williams can keep a secret. She knew for a year Andy Roddick was set to retire from tennis, but she didn't breathe a word of it to anyone. If a friend like Roddick wants to confide in her, she said, she will never betray him. Besides, she hoped he would feel physically better, that it was an impulse more than a decision.
"I was hoping he'd change his mind," she said. "I love that guy. I love Andy."
Williams has seen two stalwarts of her generation retire in the week since the U.S. Open began in Roddick and Kim Clijsters -- who lost her final match, mixed doubles, Saturday night. Williams and Roddick are the same age, 30, so as Williams prepares to meet Andrea Hlavackova in a fourth-round match at the U.S. Open on Monday, are there any secret retirement thoughts rattling around in her head?
"Honestly, I thought I definitely don't want to end it," Williams said. "Like I feel like if anything, I want to be here even more and play even more."
Despite the goodbyes this week, Williams hasn't thought about how she will announce her own. She hasn't even thought about when she would do it -- mid-tournament like Roddick or months out like Clijsters. Perish the thought -- not happening.
"Haven't thought about it whatsoever, so I don't even know what I would do," Williams said.
She has a game that could keep her around. The No. 4 seed hasn't dropped a set in the tournament. And her quarter of the draw doesn't contain a clear and present danger on her path to the semifinals. Williams is in an excellent position to compete for her third U.S. Open title, one match at a time.
In the third round she beat unseeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-0.
Next up is the Czech player who has the distinction of being a part of the Pilsner Urquell brewing legacy. Hlavackova, 26, upset No. 14 Maria Kirilenko to reach the fourth round, but had both thighs heavily taped during the match.
Plus, despite her high seeding, Kirilenko isn't a dominant player. If professional tennis were a corporation, Kirilenko would be the consistent manager who never seems to get to the corner office.
Hlavackova has been playing professional tennis since 2000, but mostly in ITF events and qualifying tournaments. It wasn't until 2010 that she cracked the top 100 in the women's rankings.
And really, Williams is hard to withstand when she is playing her best. The top women in the world will have their hands full, much less a midlevel player yet to have a breakthrough tournament.
There might have been a low moment in her career when that kind of player could take Williams out, but certainly not recently. After battling a foot injury and a pulmonary embolism that was life threatening, Williams is finally back to playing dominant tennis. She won Wimbledon, the Olympics and took the doubles gold with her sister Venus.
"Winning another Grand Slam after being in the hospital is shocking and cool and amazing," Williams said.
There are plenty of people in tennis, like Mary Jo Fernandez, the Williams sisters' Olympic and Fed Cup captain, who don't think the pair would still have such enthusiasm for the game if they hadn't had the kind of injuries that kept them from a relentless, full-time schedule.
While Serena was once criticized for being a part-time professional tennis player, fewer miles on her frame may have unintentionally lengthened her career.
At 30, she still has that competitive fire. When Williams doesn't win, as in Australia, for example, she can't stand to relive it. She doesn't re-watch the matches, she gets rid of the tennis dresses and turns away from pictures of them.
"I really hate watching matches that I lose unless I'm punishing myself," Williams said.
Which means all she has to do is win.