“I was peaceful, feeling really good,” Williams said. “Maybe a little after that, I started thinking about New York.” On to the next one.
When the US Open begins at Flushing Meadows in August, Williams will pursue pretty much the only accolade to elude her so far: a calendar-year Grand Slam, something no-one has accomplished in tennis in more than a quarter-century.
She will arrive there having won her past 28 matches at major tournaments, the latest coming at the All England Club on Saturday, when the No.1 seed put aside an early deficit and a late lull, closing out a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 20 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
It’s Williams’ second self-styled ‘Serena Slam’ of four majors in a row; she also did it in 2002-03.
“I’ve been trying to win four in a row for 12 years, and it hasn’t happened. I’ve had a couple injuries. You know, it’s been an up-and-down process,” Williams said. “I honestly can’t say that last year or two years ago or even five years ago I would have thought that I would have won four in a row.”
Only Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970, and Steffi Graf in 1988 have won all four majors in a single season.
And only Court (24) and Graf (an Open-era record 22) own more Grand Slam singles titles than Williams. Her collection includes a half-dozen trophies each from Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open, and three from the French Open.
“I just never dreamt I would be out here still,” Williams said, “let alone winning.” It hasn’t come easily. Far from it. At the French Open, fighting an illness, she gutted out five three-setters on the way to the title last month. At Wimbledon, she was two points from defeat twice against Britain’s Heather Watson in the third round, then eliminated a trio of women who are former No.1s and own multiple major titles: her older sister Venus, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
“She refuses defeat. She refuses to lose,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who has helped her win eight of the past 13 Grand Slam tournaments.
“When she feels the taste of losing, she finds so much strength, and then she can raise her level.” Maybe the most telling statistic about Williams’ ability to turn it up a notch when the spotlight is brightest is this: her record in major semi-finals and finals is 47-7. Saturday’s victory made her 21-4 in Slam title matches; it was 21-year-old Muguruza’s first major final.
But Muguruza’s 6-2, 6-2 win over Williams at the 2014 French Open is the American’s most lopsided loss at a major.