Washington: Serena Williams once again arrives at Flushing Meadows poised to rewrite the tennis record books if her own troublesome right shoulder and increasingly emboldened rivals allow.
The 34-year-old US superstar matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles with her triumph at Wimbledon in July. With a seventh US Open triumph she can break Graf’s record, and continue her march toward Australian Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam titles. She could also break Graf’s record of 186 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings, and surpass Chris Evert for most US Open singles titles won in the Open Era.
But after seeing a frustrating year go by between her 21st Grand Slam win and No. 22, Williams said she’d learned to let history take care of itself.
“At this point, I’m taking it a day at a time,” Williams said. “I just am more relaxed, for sure.”
A straight-sets win over Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final may have eased some of the pressure Williams was feeling, but it’s been far from smooth sailing since. Her bid to retain her Olympic singles title ended in Rio de Janeiro when she was sent crashing out of the third round by Elina Svitolina.
Williams was clearly hindered by the shoulder injury that had forced her out of the Montreal WTA tournament as she served up eight double faults and 37 unforced errors in the straight-sets defeat. She then withdrew from her WTA title defence in Cincinnati, still struggling with painful shoulder inflammation.
“I think usually I prefer to play more coming into the final Grand Slam of the year,” Williams acknowledged. “But there is nothing we can do about it. You just have to make the best of every single opportunity. That’s all I can do now.”
Williams faces a tricky opening encounter against experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova. She could find fifth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep waiting in the quarters and elder sister Venus, the sixth seed, in the semis.