US Open: Serena Williams says she thought she’d ‘retire at 28’
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Serena Williams may have her best chance of winning an elusive 24th Grand Slam title at the upcoming US Open, with all eyes on Novak Djokovic. The Serb is looking to make history by completing the Calendar Grand Slam and winning a record 21st major, making him the most decorated male player. The American herself has been under pressure to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Slams for almost five years, and with the pressure now on Djokovic, it may be the prime opportunity for the 39-year-old to make her own history.
Williams has been bidding to equal Court’s record Grand Slam haul since she won her 23rd major at the 2017 Australian Open.
The former world No 1 then announced her pregnancy and returned to competition over a year later but has failed to win another major title since.
While she hasn’t captured another trophy, the 39-year-old has made four Slam finals since returning to action following her pregnancy, with two coming at the US Open.
The American great has been unable to come into a Grand Slam without everyone talking about her chances of making history with a 24th major.
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However, with all eyes firmly on Djokovic this year, the spotlight will be away from Williams and that could be just the thing she needs to finally win another Grand Slam.
The men’s world No 1 started off his season by winning the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, meaning a win at the US Open will allow him to be the first man to complete the Calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Not only that, but victory would also seal his name in the history books, allowing him to pull away from long-time rivals Federer and Nadal in the Slam race, with all three currently holding 20 titles.
The Serb also had the opportunity to complete the even more elusive Calendar Golden Slam by winning all four Majors plus Olympic gold, but left Tokyo empty-handed despite being the heavy favourite.
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With the 34-year-old unable to capitalise on his chance of history in Tokyo, there will be even more pressure on him to win the US Open and prove he has not been affected by his back-to-back losses in the semi-final and bronze-medal matches at the Olympics.
Meanwhile, Williams hasn’t been seen since Wimbledon, where she was forced to retire in the first round after just six games, when she slipped on the grass and injured herself.
The American star, who has often been labelled the GOAT, also announced she wouldn’t be playing in the Olympics thanks to their Covid policies preventing her from bringing her daughter along, and pulled out of the WTA 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati.
It means the current world No 22 will be coming into the US Open with little expectation, having taken the time to recover from her right leg injury.
The combination of her injury and lack of matches, plus Djokovic’s bid for two records, creates the perfect atmosphere for the younger Williams sister to come into New York without the usual chatter of a 24th Grand Slam surrounding her.
With many of her biggest competitors also currently in doubt, it gives her an even better chance if she is able to have a deep run.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion lost to Angie Kerber in the Wimbledon 2018 final and Naomi Osaka in the US Open 2018 final.
A year later, she lost to Simona Halep during the Wimbledon championship match, and Biance Andreescu in the US Open final.
Halep has been sidelined since May after picking up an injury in Rome, only returning recently in Montreal and Cincinnati before withdrawing once again with a new, small muscle tear.
Meanwhile Osaka has suffered back-to-back third-round defeats at the Olympics and Cincinnati since withdrawing from Roland Garros and Wimbledon to protect her mental health, and Bianca Andreescu has spent the better part of two years battling injuries and struggling to win matches when she does return to tour.
If Williams is fit and healthy, and with the pressure firmly on her good friend Djokovic, she can enjoysa US Open without the big 24 weighing her down.
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