Serena Williams is no stranger to chasing records, and the ones she has set will inspire the next generation of the WTA, and generations to come. This record is the biggie. She would be the first woman in the Open era to win 24 Grand Slam finals, equalling the record of titles won by Margaret Court, with 11 of those during the Open era.
We have seen her stumble though when history has been on the line in the past, but there is a renewed sense of perspective that seems to be guiding Williams’ hand this time around. She has said it before – she is not done yet. And reaching the Wimbledon final was a great step to that aim before coming up against an inspired Angelique Kerber.
She may have lost to Osaka in the first round of Miami but that was just her second tournament back, and Osaka was still riding high on winning her first (and indeed biggest) title in Indian Wells.
We saw last year how nerves came into play for Madison Keys as she struggled to get into last year’s final, and Osaka will no doubt have a ton of butterflies. That is not to say that Williams will into be feeling the weight of expectation but she has overcome record-equalling jitters before.
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It is hard to believe that a year ago, she had given birth to her first child, and had already had to go through life-saving surgeries. To be back here after a year of such ordeals, means there is an element of swinging free on the side of Williams.
She has tried to lower expectations on her, but be in no doubt – she expects to be standing there, holding the title aloft.
The best is yet to come
If Williams is to be believed she is still only at around 60% of her old self. So in terms of lofting her level, expect that intensity to be stratospheric, lifting off the roof. In a short space of time she has come back as a legitimate contender for Slam finals. With a US crowd behind her, what levels will she lift her game to with so much on the line?
Learning from Wimbledon, expect her to come out of the gates fast
We all know that Williams can start slow, and she was well and truly played by Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final, and by the time she got to grips with the super aggressive play from the German it was too late.
There are no such facets to Osaka’s game – she hits hard and true from the baseline, and Williams can match that pound for pound. Her strength is that she likes to get into the rallies early, and she still is one of the best returners in the game. That just gives her the edge.
The US Open Women’s Singles final takes place on Arthur Ashe Stadium, not before 4pm (9pm BST).
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