Friday 19 January 2018

Supreme Serena targeting calendar Slam to equal achievements of Graf

All smiles: Serena Williams
All smiles: Serena Williams

Simon Briggs

Serena Williams sent a Twitter message on Saturday night to her old friend and training partner Andy Roddick. "I hear you said I'm already thinking about the US Open five minutes ago? Ummm Andy, you are 20 minutes late."

From a woman who has now won four consecutive majors, this was an ominous message to the rest of the tour.

Williams is already so far clear of the field that she has lost only one match this season - to Petra Kvitova in the Madrid semi-final.

Now she has extra motivation to close out the holy grail of tennis - the calendar Grand Slam - on Arthur Ashe Stadium, an arena where she has not been beaten since the 2011 final against Sam Stosur.

"I guess there is a difference," Williams said yesterday when asked if it was a bigger deal to do the calendar Slam than the so-called 'Serena Slam', which she completed for the second time in her career with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Garbine Muguruza.

"Like, you can't be disappointed with winning all four in a row - all four trophies are at my house right now so that's kind of cool. And that's definitely different. But (as for the calendar Slam) because of what everyone says and writes and seeing it as the ultimate, so obviously you can't help but see it that way too. There's a reason it's been 27 years since it's been done. I mean, it's not the easiest thing to do."

Williams' whole approach to interviews this summer was to shut down any discussion of these themes. When a BBC interviewer brought up the forbidden subject after the straight-sets semi-final win over Maria Sharapova, she grinned and mimed the universal throat-cutting gesture that means end of conversation.

Yet her mood was so buoyant in the wake of her trophy-clinching performance on Saturday that she declared a brief amnesty.

"You better ask all your questions about the Grand Slam because it will be banned soon," she told a small group of reporters.

"I'm really nice right now but sooner or later it's going on a ban because I can't think about that. I have to go into New York thinking, 'Listen, I want to win the US Open, I want to defend my title'. And that's the only reason I want to be there.

"I want to go in that locker room and take my famous picture on my knees and hold up that No 4 (her fourth successive US Open title). That's what I want to do. And that's how I got through this.

"It wasn't about winning the Serena slam; it was about winning Wimbledon. I hadn't won here in a while, I really wanted to win this title and that's the same mind frame I want to go into the next grand slam."

Steffi Graf is sure to be watching closely as the US Open unfolds. She was the last woman to complete the calendar Grand Slam, all the way back in 1988, when she also won the Olympic singles title to complete the only 'Golden Slam' in tennis history.

Two other Graf records will be under threat as well.

A Williams win would carry her to 22 career major titles - the tally that Graf completed when she won the 1999 French Open - and also make Williams the first woman to win five of these events on the bounce since Graf did it with the Australian Open of 1989.

Her dominance is such that women's tennis is turning into an endless stream of these mind-boggling statistics.

"It would be amazing," Williams said. "Even to have this opportunity to go into New York, with that amazing New York crowd.

"Hopefully people will be cheering me on to push me over the edge, give me that extra strength I need to go for this historic moment. That would be great. And I think in a way, it also makes thing easier for me because I feel like I have nothing to lose.

"I feel like I play better when I'm relaxed. And last year going into the US Open I hadn't got to the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam and so going there I was so relaxed.

"I just went in there having a low goal, quarter-finals, and then built on that goal match by match. I did the same here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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