US tennis legend Serena Williams has made a solid start to her US Open campaign, beating the long-standing record for the tournament’s most wins by a female player. But Williams has her eye on a much bigger goal.
The 38-year-old, who is chasing a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam, said she was happy to celebrate the historic victory.
She noted, however, that her winning ambitions are not just confined to the US Open’s first round, as she plans to clinch the coveted trophy.
READ MORE: Serena Williams bemoans patchy form ahead of Grand Slam record bid at Flushing Meadows
The six-time US Open winner easily defeated fellow American Kristie Ahn in two straight sets 7-5, 6-4, securing a whopping 102nd victory at Flushing Meadows and surpassing compatriot Chris Evert as the all-time leader in number of matches won at the US Open.
“I don’t think I appreciate it enough, which is unfortunate,” Williams told reporters when asked about her newly set record.
Serena out here doing Serena things…1️⃣0️⃣2️⃣ #USOpen victories for @serenawilliamspic.twitter.com/cAV7bUthbS
“But I’m in the middle of a grand slam, so it’s not the time to be focused […] on records when I’m thinking about winning a tournament,” she added.
Will she be able to lift the trophy this year, given that she struggled a lot in the build-up to the tournament, suffering humiliating defeats from lower-ranked opponents?
Even the depleted women’s draw, which is missing a number of big names, cannot guarantee Williams’ dominance on the US courts, despite the absence of her main rivals.
Williams, who is chasing her first Grand Slam title since she gave birth to daughter Olympia in 2017, is far from her peak form, having suffered a number of surprise losses in the weeks leading up to the start of the US Open.
The US tennis star, who will turn 39 later this month, lost to world number 116 Shelby Rogers in the quarter-finals of the Top Seed Open, before being knocked out of the warm-up tournament for the US Open, the Western & Southern Open, in the third round by 13th seed Maria Sakkari.
Commenting on her performance, Williams admitted that her game was far from ideal, adding that she was not accustomed to playing three-set matches practically every day.
🇦🇺 Margaret Court: 24🇺🇸 Serena Williams: 23Margaret Court holds an astonishing 47-year-old record for major titles in women’s singles.Can Serena Williams equal that tally at this year’s US Open? pic.twitter.com/zsg8uKNAMb
“It’s hard to play the way I have been playing and to stay positive. And to play nine hours in a week is too much. I don’t usually play like that,” she said.
The 23-time major champion was seeded third at the US Open, which means she will avoid meeting top-ranked players in the opening matches.
With world number one Ash Barty and number two Simona Halep having withdrawn from the tournament due to Covid-19 concerns, many pundits have suggested that William’ task of winning the US Open will be easier without those top-ranked opponents.
Whether Williams will emerge victorious in the competition will be revealed on September 12, when the women’s final takes place. But for now, the prominent American is getting ready for her second-round encounter with unseeded Russian rival Margarita Gasparyan.