Despite everything that Serena Williams has won and done, her sense of self can still fluctuate based on the outcome of a particular match.
Doesn’t always seem to matter that she owns a record-tying 22 major singles titles heading into the US Open, which begins on Monday with a retractable roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time.
Not necessarily a big deal to her that she’s spent the past three years entrenched at No.1 and is the oldest woman ever to top the WTA rankings.
And there are times when the 34-year-old American basically forgets that she transcends her sport and has become a cultural icon away from the tennis court.
Williams is devastated when she is dealt a setback, such as last year’s “Did that really happen?!” loss to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals, ending an attention-grabbing, pressure-piling bid for the first calendar-year grand slam by anyone in more than a quarter of a century.
Williams acknowledges she measures herself constantly.
“Unfortunately, I definitely do, which I don’t think is normal. I definitely feel like when I lose, I don’t feel as good about myself,” she said.
“But then I have to, like, remind myself that: ‘You are Serena Williams.'”
Williams is at the stage of her career where history is in the offing nearly every time a racquet is in her right hand.
So while the stakes are different from what they were at Flushing Meadows in 2015, Williams does have something significant to play for yet again.
After equalling Steffi Graf for the most grand slam titles in the professional era by winning Wimbledon last month, Williams now can break that tie.
Only Australian Margaret Smith Court owns more major singles trophies, with 24, but more than half of that total came against amateur competition.
Not that Williams was immediately ready to think about topping Graf after pulling even with her at the All England Club.
“One thing I learned about last year is to enjoy the moment,” Williams said.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy this.”
Good thing, too, because not everything has gone smoothly since that most recent triumph.
Slowed by a bothersome right shoulder, Williams lost in the third round of singles and first round of doubles at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics – she was a 2012 gold medallist in both events – and then pulled out of a hard-court tuneup event in Ohio.
Williams is assured of remaining at No.1 until the end of the Open, which will bring her current streak to 186 weeks in a row, equalling another mark held by Graf.
But depending on what happens in the tournament, Williams could be overtaken in the rankings by No.2 Angelique Kerber, who beat the American in the Australian Open final in January, No.3 Garbine Muguruza, or No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska.