Nerves could jinx Ser­ena’s record Slam bid, says Court

The New Paper - - SPORTS -

Aus­tralian great Mar­garet Court has pre­dicted nerves could un­der­mine Ser­ena Wil­liams’ bid to match her record 24 sin­gles Ma­jors, clear­ing the way for an out­sider to snatch the ti­tle at Mel­bourne Park.

She dis­puted the book­ies’ as­sess­ment that Ser­ena is red­hot favourite to lift the Aus­tralian Open tro­phy for an eighth time, tak­ing her over­all Grand Slam tally to 24.

“It’s pos­si­ble for Ser­ena to equal me, if any­body’s gonna do it, it’s Ser­ena, but I don’t think there’s a clear-cut favourite,” Court told Mel­bourne’s Her­ald Sun news­pa­per yes­ter­day.

“It’s a pretty open tour­na­ment, an out­sider can win it.”

Wil­liams, 37, has won 23 sin­gles Grand Slams since 1999 – seven Aus­tralian Opens, three French Opens, seven Wim­ble­dons and six US Opens.

Court, now 76, won 24 sin­gles Grand Slams from 1960-73 – 11 Aus­tralian Opens, five French Opens, three Wim­ble­dons and five US Opens.

How­ever, 13 of Court’s ti­tles came be­fore 1968, when the women’s game en­tered the Open era and be­came fully pro­fes­sional.

For that rea­son, many pun­dits, in­clud­ing 18-time Slam cham­pion Chris Evert, be­lieve Wil­liams is al­ready the great­est of all time.

An­other win at Mel­bourne Park would set­tle the ar­gu­ment once and for all, but Court said the Amer­i­can no longer had the fear­less­ness of youth on her side.

“When you’re young, you tend not to think about it too much,” she said.

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“I won my first Aus­tralian cham­pi­onship when I was 17 and I had no nerves. As I went along... it be­came harder.”

Wil­liams has been one shy of Court’s record since win­ning the 2017 Aus­tralian Open, when she was eight weeks’ preg­nant.

She had spo­ken about the men­tal hur­dles she faced be­fore reach­ing St­effi Graf’s Open-era mile­stone of 22 Ma­jors at Wim­ble­don in 2016.

Her ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess rate in Grand Slam fi­nals has slowed in re­cent years.

Be­tween 1999 and 2015, she reached 25 Slam de­ciders and lost only four, but since then her record stands at only two wins in six fi­nals.

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