US Open: Serena Williams chases history at home

Can become first woman since Steffi Graf to win all four Slams in a year

Afp August 30, 2015
Serena seeks her fourth consecutive US Open title after having won this year’s French and Australian Opens and Wimbledon as well as the hardcourt events in Miami and Cincinnati. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK: World number one Serena Williams feels the pressure of chasing history at the US Open but accepts the intensity as the price of dominating a generation of women’s tennis.

The 33-year-old American, who captured her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open at the tender age of 17, is a huge favourite as she tries to complete the first Calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 by winning her 22nd career major title starting Monday on the New York hardcourts.

“I prefer to have that pressure [of matching Graf] than the pressure of not winning,” said Serena. “Not everyone can handle that pressure, but I’m OK with it. I would rather be in this position than another one.”

Serena seeks her fourth consecutive US Open title after having won this year’s French and Australian Opens and Wimbledon as well as hardcourt events in Miami and Cincinnati.

“It gives me confidence to know that what I’ve been working on these past few days and weeks has been going very well,” said Serena. “It also makes me realise the feeling of winning. I like that feeling and want to do the hard work.”

Serena, who opens Monday night against Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko, will be the US Open top seed for a fourth time, having already won titles as top seed in 2002, 2013 and 2014.

In the end, Serena’s toughest enemy might be herself and her mental ability to handle trouble during matches. “If I am playing well then hopefully no one [else] will win, but we’ll see,” she said. “It’s all up to me. If I decide to play right, it’ll be great.”

Djokovic hoping to win 10th Grand Slam

World number one Novak Djokovic, top seed for the US Open, will begin his campaign on Monday against Brazil’s Joao Souza at Arthur Ashe Stadiu and could have been searching for a Calendar Slam himself but for a shock defeat in the Roland Garros final against Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic’s loss in Paris this year means he can’t emulate Rod Laver’s feat in 1969. However, he is positive he may be able to do so soon. “I have been close and that gives me enough reason to believe that I can achieve that,” said Djokovic. “Will that happen or not? I cannot predict and say yes or no, but I can definitely tell you that I give my best.”

“I’m trying to win every Grand Slam I play. I set myself up for high standards because of the results I’ve had the last couple of years,” said the 28-year-old Serb. “I’m an ambitious guy and I devote myself completely to the sport.”

Djokovic can win three Slams in the same year for the second time in his career if he takes the trophy in two weeks. In 2011, he won the US and Australian Opens and Wimbledon but lost to Spanish star Rafael Nadal in Djokovic’s first trip to the Roland Garros final.

However, Djokovic sees himself as a different player than he was in 2011. “I’m a different person, a different player than I was in 2011 so it’s kind of hard to compare tennis-wise,” said Djokovic said. “Physically I’m stronger and able to endure longer than I did in 2011.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st,  2015.

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