Serena Williams once again arrives at Flushing Meadows poised to rewrite the tennis record books if her own troublesome right shoulder and increasingly emboldened rivals allow.
The 34-year-old US superstar matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles with her triumph at Wimbledon in July. With a seventh US Open triumph she can break Graf’s record, and continue her march toward Australian Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam titles.
She could also break Graf’s record of 186 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings, and surpass Chris Evert for most US Open singles titles won in the Open Era.
But after seeing a frustrating year go by between her 21st Grand Slam win and No. 22, Williams said she’d learned to let history take care of itself.
“I learned not to get involved in those debates and conversations,” Williams said after her straight-sets victory over Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final.
“I definitely had some sleepless nights ... I’ve just felt a lot of pressure.” When the final Grand Slam of the year gets underway on Monday, the pressure could be on again.
Williams’s bid to retain her Olympic singles title ended in Rio de Janeiro this month when she was sent crashing out of the third round by Elina Svitolina.
Williams was clearly hindered by the shoulder injury that had forced her out of the Montreal WTA tournament as she served up eight double faults and 37 unforced errors in the straight-sets defeat.
Since then she has withdrawn from her WTA title defence in Cincinnati, saying the inflammation in her shoulder “continues to be a challenge”. If Williams isn’t at full strength, Kerber is just one of the players poised to pounce.