Serena Williams is embracing the suffocating pressure that seems the only threat to the ageless champion’s hopes of completing a fabled calendar-year grand slam sweep.
“She doesn’t have a challenger,” former world No.1 Lindsay Davenport gushed after Williams subdued Spanish prodigy Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4 in Saturday’s Wimbledon final.
No time to waste, though, celebrating her sixth title at the All England Club – or a 21st career major and second “Serena Slam” – Williams immediately turned her focus to even bigger opportunities at next month’s US Open.
Williams houses all four grand slam singles trophies for the second time in her remarkable career, but the newly-crowned Wimbledon and reigning Australian, French and US champion is eyeing yet greater spoils.
The American will head to New York striving to become only the fourth woman in more than a century of grand slam tennis to win all four majors in the same year.
The spotlight will be intense, but Williams insists the pressure won’t undermine her chances of joining Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Smith Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) in one of world sport’s most exclusive clubs.
“I feel like if I can do the Serena Slam, I will be okay heading into the grand slam,” she said.
“Like I always say, there’s 127 other people that don’t want to see me win. Nothing personal, they just want to win.
“I had a really tough draw (at Wimbledon). This gives me confidence that if I had this draw, I can do it again.
“I really don’t feel like I have anything to lose. I’ve kind of solidified my place at No.1.
“My goal is always to end the year at No.1. I just want to make sure when I play Australia, I don’t have pressure going into that.”
Instead, if Williams does reign at Flushing Meadows for a seventh time, she will head to Melbourne in January with the chance to eclipse Graf’s benchmark 22 grand slam titles and enhance her status as arguably the greatest women’s player of all time.
“You’ve got to enjoy this. You’re looking at arguably the greatest female athlete in maybe the last 50 years. Not just in tennis. All sports,” John McEnroe marvelled after Williams also became the oldest grand slam singles champion in the open era with her straight-sets defeat of Muguruza.
At 33 years and 289 days old, Williams is 25 days younger than when Martina Navratilova landed the last of her record nine titles at the All England Club in 1990.
But she craves more and credits a newfound passion for “contemporary dancing” as the reason for still feeling young enough to compete with – and beat – rivals across three generations.
“I’ve never loved working out,” Williams said after 21-year-old Muguruza became her 13th different grand slam final scalp since beating Martina Hingis at the 1999 US Open at just 17.
“When I first started, I would always ride the bike, work on my legs.
“Then I started doing more running. Then I started doing more sprint work.
“At one point I was boxing. Every few years I’m always doing something physically-wise.
“I feel almost better now. I mean, I do have some aches and pains, but overall physically I feel like I’m better. I feel like I’m more fit.
“I feel like I can do more than I did 10, 12, whatever years ago.
“Yeah, I just think I just keep reinventing myself in terms of working out, in terms of my game.
“It’s been working.”
SNAPSHOT OF NEWLY-CROWNED WIMBLEDON CHAMPION SERENA WILLIAMS
Born: Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Lives: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $A97.57 million
Career titles: 68
Career win-loss record: 716-121
Grand slam titles: 21 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2015; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012, 2014; US Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2014)
Grand slam win-loss record: 190-28
Wimbledon win-loss record: 79-10
Best Wimbledon performances: champion 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012, 2015
ROAD TO TITLE
1st rd: bt Margarita Gaspariyan (RUS) 6-4 6-1
2nd rd: bt Timea Babos (HUN) 6-4 6-1
3rd rd: bt Heather Watson (GBR) 6-2 4-6 7-5
4th rd: bt 16-Venus Williams (USA) 6-4 6-3
QF: bt 23-Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 3-6 6-2 6-3
SF: bt 4-Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-2 6-4
F: bt 21-Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-4 6-4