Serena Williams says she felt much more on edge going for her second career “Serena Slam” at Wimbledon than she does seeking a calendar Grand Slam at the US Open.
Top-ranked Williams struggled early but revived in time for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory Friday over 101st-ranked US compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands to reach the fourth round on the New York hardcourts.
The 33-year-old American’s quest to achieve the first calendar Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and win a 22nd career Slam singles title to match Graf’s Open Era record has drawn huge attention, but supposedly resonates much less with the history chaser herself.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Williams said. “I mean, I don’t have to win this event. It’s not the end of the world for me.”
Williams holds all four major titles at once for the second time in her career after four in a row ending with the 2003 Australian Open. Graf and Martina Navratilova have done that as well.
But the calendar Slam was achieved only by Maureen Connolly in 1953, Court in 1970 and Graf among women. Rod Laver did it in 1962 and 1969 and Don Budge did it in 1938 in the men’s game.
“Getting to Wimbledon and winning the Serena Slam, that really meant a lot to me. That tournament I felt on the edge a lot,” Williams said.
“This one I don’t feel that way. I think people feel that way more than I do, but I don’t feel like I need that more than anything.”
That doesn’t mean Williams doesn’t feel the pressure of what she could accomplish.
“I mean, of course it’s there. I’m not a robot or anything,” Williams said.
“But at the end of the day I’m just here to do the best I can. If that means I win, then great. But if it doesn’t, then you know what? I can’t let that affect me because I still have other tournaments to play.”
It’s that concern, protecting from anything that could be considered a failure after a year of epic success, that might be an issue in Williams’ journey.
And another key thing she hinted at was that it’s a quest that marks unknown territory for her, a challenge unseen by a superstar who brags about numbers and has faced down almost all tennis has to offer.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Williams said. “I’ve never been on this train. I love metaphors. It’s different.”
Asked what it would take to derail her, Williams made it clear she knows enough to get out of the way of a speeding train and get on board.
“If I’m standing on the middle of a track, I’m definitely going to get derailed,” she said. “I have to make sure that I’m on the train and not in front of it.”
Williams dismissed the label of “invincible,” saying that is something she has never felt, and said she feels more eagerness to win every match than she did in younger days.
Asked if she recalled Graf going for the career Slam, Williams gave an incredulous look. “Seriously? I mean, I’m old, but c’mon. Geez. I mean, what, I was six. Get serious.”
It’s the seriousness of Williams’ on-court situations that have caused concerns.
She has been taken to three sets 10 times in 24 Slam matches this year, dropping the first set in eight of those but winning every match and three of four titles so far.
“Getting out of it so many times definitely helps me,” Williams said.
“It’s definitely not something I want to do, though. But, hey, a win’s a win, I guess.”
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