by Bob Stockton
Whether she matches or even beats Margaret Court’s all-time record for most women’s singles Grand Slam wins or not, Serena Williams has her place among the greats of tennis.
Nobody can question that she is one of the best to ever pick up a racquet. The hard fact is that Serena has passed the four-year mark since last winning one of her sport’s majors.
Williams missed four Slams (the 2017 French Open through to the 2018 Australian Open) through maternity leave. Since the birth of her daughter, she has reached four major finals – at Wimbledon and the US Open in consecutive years – without further success.
For almost any other athlete, holding the modern Open Era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles would be enough. For Serena, her return to tennis after becoming a mother has been about the pursuit of one goal.
If she can tie or even better Court’s haul, then in terms of majors won she would be considered the best woman in the sport’s history. Time is not on Williams’s side, however.
They say life begins at 40, but most professional sports careers end before or around that time. A semi-final loss in Melbourne to subsequent 2021 Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka left Serena emotional and departing a post-match press conference in tears after questions about retirement.
Perhaps it is finally dawning on this tennis titan that she has fewer Slams ahead than behind her. Williams doesn’t owe anyone anything after a glittering career that everyone else on the WTA Tour would love to have enjoyed.
That 24th Grand Slam and moving level with Court is proving elusive for her. Serena’s next chance of getting it is the French Open, but the clay courts of Roland Garros have been least kind to her with just three wins in Paris and three early exits since becoming a mother.
If not there, then how about Wimbledon where she has reached more finals (11) than at any other major? According to the outright tennis betting on the women’s singles at SW19, Williams is the 8/1 co-favourite for a wide-open tournament on grass.
Her formidable record on that surface and in this particular major gives her hope of a breakthrough there. Only Martina Navratilova has had more Wimbledon singles success in the Open Era than Serena.
A seventh US Open title at Flushing Meadows would also be pretty special. This is Williams’s home Slam, where she hasn’t failed to make the semis when fit and competing since 2007.
She is a slightly bigger price to reign again in New York come summer’s end and with her 40th birthday looming large in September. When Serena does call time on her career, she can look back with pride and say she has done it all.
This last milestone is important to her, but nobody will say it diminishes her status as one of the best ever in any way if she doesn’t get there. The odds suggest Wimbledon is Williams’s best chance of making history.