The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

OLD TRICKS GIVE SER­ENA A SHOT

- PAUL MALONE

OF ALL the achieve­ments we could have fore­seen for Ser­ena Wil­liams, the least likely was that she would be­come the “old­est’’ any­thing.

In her early 20s, Wil­liams was crit­i­cised by 1980s greats Martina Navratilov­a and Chris Evert for not play­ing more tour­na­ments and for indulging flir­ta­tions with act­ing and other non-ten­nis ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ap­proach­ing her 34th birth­day late next month, Wil­liams has stayed the course de­spite ill­ness, in­jury and even her own ca­pac­ity for self-in­duced drama to win more Grand Slam ti­tles than ei­ther of them.

Her Wim­ble­don ti­tle in July made her the old­est fe­male ma­jor win­ner in the Open era, be­ing older than when Navratilov­a took out her last Grand Slam crown in 1990.

Wil­liams has been seized upon in some quar­ters as a role model and spokes­woman for black Amer­i­cans and a cover girl for fe­male sport­ing achieve­ment in the land of the NFL and NBA.

When a re­porter from The New York Times last week tried to in­ter­view her at length about top­ics of race, such as why Maria Shara­pova earned more endorsemen­t dol­lars than she did, Wil­liams was said to have be­come im­pa­tient. “You don’t un­der­stand me,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m just about win­ning.’’ Win­ning the US Open, which will start to­mor­row, would give her a 22nd Grand Slam ti­tle, be­hind only Aus­tralia’s Mar­garet Court.

It would also make her the fourth woman to win the cal­en­dar year Grand Slam, join­ing Mau­reen Con­nolly (1952), Court (1970) and St­effi Graf (1988).

“It’s all up to me. If I de­cide to play right, it’ll be great,’’ said Wil­liams, who holds all four ma­jor ti­tles con­cur­rently for the sec­ond time in her life, hav­ing achieved it in 2002-03

The top seed, who will play 86th-ranked Vi­talia Di­atchenko in the first round at Flush­ing Mead­ows, said she did not feel as if she had any­thing to lose.

“I’ve kind of so­lid­i­fied my place at No.1,’’ she said. “My goal is al­ways to end the year at No.1.’’

Wil­liams’ ca­reer be­gan at Grand Slam level one year be­fore Bel­gian stars Justine Henin and Kim Cli­jsters.

Henin re­tired for a sec­ond time in 2011 and Cli­jsters bowed out a sec­ond time in 2012.

 ??  ?? STREET FIGHTER: Ser­ena Wil­liams in New York last week; play­ing the French Open in 1999 (right). Main pic­ture: Getty Im­ages
STREET FIGHTER: Ser­ena Wil­liams in New York last week; play­ing the French Open in 1999 (right). Main pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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