US Open Contenders: Serena Williams
Published August 25, 2013 12:00
Titles Won (8): French Open, Brisbane, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome, Bastad, Toronto
Grand Slam Performances: Australian Open (quarterfinals), French Open (champion), Wimbledon (fourth round)
Win/Loss Record: 60-4
Record Against Top 10: 12-2
US Open History: Champion (2012, 2008, 2002, 1999), Runner-Up (2011, 2001), Semifinals (2009), Quarterfinals (2007, 2004, 2000), Fourth Round (2006, 2005), Third Round (1998)
For all her considerable achievements, Serena Williams has never managed to successfully defend her home major. Inspired opponents and injuries have thwarted her on three previous visits as returning champion, most recently in 2009 when she was a footnote in Kim Clijsters' own fairytale of New York.
However, on the eve of her 14th campaign - which begins against Francesca Schiavone on Monday - Williams appears in the perfect position to end her US Open hoodoo. With 60 wins and eight titles - equaling her career-best haul - in terms of numbers, the American has been 2013's outstanding performer.
Yet despite these successes, Williams' words in the lead up to the tournament suggest that there will be a lingering sense of regret if she fails to crown the season with a second major week on Sunday.
"I feel like I've had a decent year for me, I guess," Williams said earlier in the summer. "The year's not over. I honestly would have preferred to do better in some tournaments. So for me I need to do well in tournaments like Toronto and Cincinnati to get ready for the last Grand Slam of the year and do really well there, as well."
The principal threat to her hopes of doing so looks likely to come from Victoria Azarenka, who in last week's Cincinnati final inflicted a rare defeat on Williams.
Rather than dwell on the defeat, though, she is using it as a source of motivation. "Every time I lose, I get so pumped afterwards," Williams said at a press conference in New York on Saturday. "I just feel like now I'm ready, now I'm prepared. I almost needed that to take my game to a new level."
Williams, who turns 32 next month, is bidding to become the oldest champion in the tournament's history and feels she is playing better than ever. "I have been able to keep up with the times," Williams added. "I'm actually serving harder than I ever have in my career. The racquets are stronger and I'm fitter.
"I feel so good, so healthy, so vivacious every time I step on the court."