Ser­ena shoul­ders bur­den of his­tory at US Open

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

NEW YORK — 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.

When the fi­nal Grand Slam of the year gets un­der­way on Mon­day, the pres­sure could be on again.

Wil­liams’ 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.

The Ger­man de­feated Wil­liams in the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal in Jan­uary. Seeded se­cond in New York, she is one of three play­ers with a chance to seize the num­ber one rank­ing if Wil­liams fal­ters. Ker­ber, 28, boasts a ti­tle at Stuttgart, an Olympic sil­ver medal and fi­nals ap­pear­ances at Bris­bane in Jan­uary and this month in Cincin­nati — where she missed her first chance to sup­plant Wil­liams atop the rankings. Be­ing viewed as a le­git­i­mate threat to Wil­liams, Ker­ber said, “is really spe­cial”.

Third-seeded Spa­niard Gar­bine Mugu­ruza also has a shot at the top, although the 22-year-old who stunned Wil­liams in the French Open fi­nal will need her best US Open ever to do so.

In three main-draw ap­pear­ances she has won just one match. Turn­ing around her Flush­ing Mead­ows for­tunes would fur­ther her aim of es­tab­lish­ing her­self as more than “the girl that beat Ser­ena” at Roland Gar­ros.

Last year’s US Open cham­pion Flavia Pen­netta of Italy will not de­fend her ti­tle after re­tir­ing at the end of last year. — AFP

Ser­ena Wil­liams

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