Serena sets sights on 24th Grand Slam title

31 August 2020 | Sports

NAMPA/AFP



Serena Williams' protracted pursuit of Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles resumes at a 2020 US Open that promises to be unlike any other.

The absence of fans because of Covid-19 concerns means the buzz and hubbub that define the US Open will be missing.

Williams, whose 23 major victories are an Open-era record, will have nothing but her own skill and will to get her through the tough moments as she seeks a record-breaking seventh title on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows.



Empty stadium a concern

“I don't dislike it and that's weird because I'm a player that is so emotional and so, like, a crowd player,” Williams said upon returning to action after the WTA's coronavirus shutdown.

“Kind of reminds me of the junior days. There is something nostalgic about that.” Playing in a virtually empty Ashe stadium, which seats more than 23 000, could be another story.

“Playing in New York is going to be interesting, because the stadium is huge,” Williams said.

“But I do practice in empty stadiums, so I have played in New York on Arthur Ashe Stadium when it was empty and it was great.

“I guess I have to kind of lean on that.”



First Slam since Olympia

It has been more than three years since Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open - when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

She's come close since, reaching four major finals only to come up empty-handed.

“I've definitely been stuck,” Williams, who seems to have grown weary of the questions about Court's record, if not the chase itself, said.

Even if she reaches the milestone, she said, it would provide no sort of punctuation mark. “I'm never satisfied, that's the story of my career,” she said. “I'll never be satisfied until I retire, that's just my personality.”



Looked vulnerable

Williams has looked vulnerable in two tournaments since the WTA tour returned to action, labouring through lengthy matches before earlier than expected exits at Lexington and the Western and Southern Open - held this year on the same New York courts that will host the Open.

She fell to 116th-ranked Shelby Rogers in Lexington, and squandered a commanding lead in a loss to 21st-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece in New York. “I've just got to start learning how to win big points,” Williams said after she was unable to serve out a straight-sets victory against Sakkari.

“If I could just focus on how to win that one point that would be better.

“I had so many opportunities to win and I have to figure that one out, like how to start winning those matches again.”

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