Cal­en­dar girl Ser­ena tar­gets sixth Wim­ble­don ti­tle

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GRIF­FITHS

Ser­ena Wil­liams has set her sights on mov­ing a step closer to an his­toric cal­en­dar Grand Slam as the world num­ber one launches her bid for a sixth Wim­ble­don crown.

Wil­liams re­turns to the All Eng­land Club next week for the first time since her dis­tress­ing melt­down mid­way through a dou­bles match last year in which she was so badly af­fected by an ap­par­ent virus that she could barely hit the ball over the net.

Those bizarre im­ages of a dazed Ser­ena stum­bling around Court One — com­ing just days af­ter her lack­lus­ter third round de­feat in the sin­gles at the hands of Al­ize Cor­net — prompted some to sug­gest the Amer­i­can’s glit­ter­ing ca­reer was head­ing for a painful fi­nal chap­ter.

But the 33-year-old’s re­sponse has been typ­i­cally dra­matic and decisive.

Ser­ena won the U.S. Open to end 2014 on a high and then swept to Aus­tralian and French Open tri­umphs this year, bring- ing her back to the All Eng­land Club within two ma­jor ti­tles of achiev­ing the first cal­en­dar Grand Slam since St­effi Graf claimed the four top ti­tles in 1988.

“Ob­vi­ously I would love to win a Grand Slam. I think it would be awe­some,” said Ser­ena, who de­feated Lu­cie Sa­farova to clinch her third Roland Gar­ros ti­tle ear­lier this month.

With 20 Grand Slam ti­tles to her name, Wil­liams sits third on the all-time list and is clos­ing fast on Mar­garet Court’s record of 24, with the pos­si­bil­ity of equal­ing sec­ond placed Graf’s tally of 22 by the end of the year.

But for now, Ser­ena, who has only won three Grand Slams in a year once in 2002, is fo­cused solely on mak­ing a good start to her Wim­ble­don cam­paign af­ter fail­ing to get to the quar­ter­fi­nals for the last two years.

“I haven’t done great at Wim­ble­don the past two years, so I’m go­ing to take it a day at a time there,” Wil­liams said.

“My goal is just to do bet­ter than the last cou­ple of years, do one more and one more and one more.”

Ruth­less Rout

One of the main threats to Ser­ena was ex­pected to come from de­fend­ing cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova, who clinched her sec­ond Wim­ble­don ti­tle with a ruth­less rout of Eu­ge­nie Bouchard in the fi­nal 12 months ago.

But the 25-year-old Czech is not yet cer­tain she will be fit enough to de­fend her crown af­ter she was forced to with­draw from this week’s Wim­ble­don warm-up event at East­bourne due to a virus.

“It doesn’t re­ally make sense to play and not be ready for Wim­ble­don. I may get more sick than I am now. So I hope I can just re­cover now,” the world num­ber two said.

Five-time Grand Slam cham­pion Maria Shara­pova will be ex­pected to emerge as a ma­jor con­tender for the ti­tle she won as teenager 11 years ago.

But the 28-year-old Rus­sian, the world’s rich­est fe­male ath­lete, has yet to prove she can master Ser­ena, who routed Shara­pova in this year’s Aus­tralian Open fi­nal to ex­tend her dom­i­nant record to 17 wins in their 19 meet­ings.

Bouchard was widely tipped as the heir ap­par­ent to Shara­pova as the sport’s glam­our girl when the Cana­dian, whose mother named her af­ter Bri­tish roy­alty, cap­tured the hearts of the Wim­ble­don fans dur­ing her run to the fi­nal last year.

How­ever, that suc­cess was the pre­lude to a sopho­more slump that has seen the 21- year- old lose in the first round of seven tour­na­ments in 2015.

Bouchard hopes a re­turn to the All Eng­land Club will im­prove her for­tunes and she said: “When I go to Wim­ble­don I’ll have mem­o­ries from last year pop­ping into my head, which will hope­fully give me con­fi­dence that I’ll play re­ally well.”

Sa­farova and world num­ber three Simona Halep, both Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nal­ists last year, will also ex­pect to go deep into a tour­na­ment, but few ex­pect any­thing other than a Ser­ena cel­e­bra­tion on the fi­nal Satur­day.

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