The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
OLD TRICKS GIVE SERENA A SHOT
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.