Serena Williams is adamant she can cope with the pressure of going for a calender grand slam as she eyes the third leg of the historic achievement at Wimbledon.
Williams has swept to Australian and French Open triumphs over the past six months and the world number one returns to the All England Club within two major titles of becoming the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to claim the four top titles in one year.
The 33-year-old American also won the US Open to end 2014 on a high and is heavy favourite to continue that dominant run by taking the Wimbledon title for the sixth time in her illustrious career.
Her march to a momentous milestone has captured the public’s attention and Serena knows the eyes of the sporting world will be on her over the next fortnight.
But she insists she will have no problems with the extra attention and expectation because her mental toughness is a bigger strength than even her booming serve and over-powering ground-strokes.
“Personally it doesn’t make it feel any different, which I think is a good thing because I don’t feel any pressure to win all four,” Williams told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.
“Maybe if I would happen to win here, then maybe I might start feeling it after that.”
With 20 grand slam titles to her name, Williams also sits third on the all-time list and is closing fast on Margaret Court’s record of 24, with the possibility of equalling second-placed Graf’s tally of 22 by the end of the year.
Yet, while Williams comes to the All England Club as the woman to beat, she knows her early exits from the tournament over the past two years prove nothing can be taken for granted, especially given her discomfort on the fast grass.
Last year she crashed out against unheralded Alize Cornet in the third round and in 2013 she was dumped out by Sabine Lisicki in the last 16.
“I think the fact that I lost so early the past couple years definitely makes me motivated. But I think that also gives me a little less pressure because I haven’t done well here in the past two years,” said Williams, who faces Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan in the Wimbledon first round.
Serena could have had extra preparation at one of the Wimbledon warm-up events but she and sister Venus have been honing their grass game with the help of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who has three courts at his plush home near her base in Florida.
“That’s where we’ve been training. Me and Venus were at Jack Nicklaus’s place. He’s so nice to let us use his courts. It was fun. Very good courts as well.”