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Williams still learning to live with 'Serena' target

Last updated 5 months ago | By Reuters

Sep 1, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Serena Williams of the United States hits the ball against Kristie Ahn of the United States on day two of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. [Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports]

Winning a Grand Slam is hard. For Serena Williams, managing the overwhelming expectations that come with a two-decade long career in the spotlight seems even harder.

The third seed advanced into the second week of the U.S. Open on Saturday, surviving a third-round scare from fellow American Sloane Stephens before winning 2-6 6-2 6-2 in her toughest test at this year’s tournament so far.

Asked how she compartmentalises the day-today challenge of competition with the attention 23 Grand Slam titles can bring, Williams simply said: “Sometimes it’s harder than others.”

“Every day having ‘Serena’ on your back is a massive target for the tour, for press, for stress,” said Williams.

“But as Billie Jean King said, pressure is a privilege. So I wouldn’t want it any other way. So I just try to think about how fortunate I am to have been in this position.”

In all of sport there are few records quite so stubborn as the one belonging to King’s rival, Margaret Court: 24 Grand Slam titles. It is one that Williams has fought mightily to reach.

Serena Williams from the United States with daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. and the ASB trophy after winning her singles finals match against United States Jessica Pegula at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, Jan 12, 2020. [Chris Symes/Photosport via AP]

The 38-year-old six-time U.S. Open champion has made the finals in four majors since she returned from maternity leave in 2018, coming up just short each time.

It is a fight she has waged largely on her own.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone,” about chasing records, Williams told reporters. “Maybe that would have been, would have, would, could be a good idea.”

Her next hurdle comes in the form of Maria Sakkari of Greece, who cut short Williams’ Western & Southern Open campaign just 10 days ago in the tournament’s third round.

For Williams, a relentless perfectionist, the meeting is yet another chance for self-improvement.

“I don’t think it’s anything tricky, especially when you lost it’s good to kind of go back out there and try to do a little bit better,” she said.

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