LONDON — While tennis fans everywhere anxiously wait to see if Serena Williams can take the third step toward a true Grand Slam, the 20-time major winner said she will only start to feel the pressure in about two weeks.
That is, after Wimbledon ends.
The 33-year-old Williams is overwhelmingly considered to be the best player in the women’s game, and she heads into the grass-court Grand Slam tournament following victories at the Australian Open and the French Open. The last person to win all four majors in the same season was Steffi Graf in 1988.
“Personally, it doesn’t make it feel any different, which I think is a good thing because I don’t feel any pressure to win all four,” Williams said. “I’ve been saying that, but I really don’t feel that pressure. Maybe if I would happen to win here, then maybe I might start feeling it after that.”
Williams has already won five titles at the All England Club, with the last coming in 2012. Last year, she lost in the third round, and she went out in the fourth round the year before that.
“I think the fact that I lost so early the past couple years definitely makes me motivated,” said the top-ranked and top-seeded Williams, who is 32-1 this season. “But I think that also gives me a little less pressure because I haven’t done well here in the past two years. It makes me feel like, ‘OK, I’ll be fine. I have nothing to lose here.’”
Only three women and two men have won all four majors titles in the same year. Besides Graf, Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court have done it. On the men’s side, Rod Laver (twice) and Don Budge did it.
Williams, however, did win four majors in a row in 2002-03 for a “Serena Slam,” and another title at Wimbledon would be her fourth straight Grand Slam title.
“She’s certainly the player to beat,” said Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion seeded fourth this year. “With all the confidence in the world having won the last three majors, not just the two in this year.
“I think it always comes down to consistency. It’s such a fine line. It’s one thing to do it at one event or two events, but in order to have that level to be able to do it consistently I think is pretty incredible.”
Roger Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam in 2009 but never managed to win all four in the same season, said Williams will always be the favorite, but she needs to keep her focus.
“The biggest mistake would be to think (about) being in the finals of the U.S. Open already,” said Federer, a 17-time major champion. “When she plays on her terms, especially now, you would think Wimbledon and the U.S. Open would be the easier ones to win, especially with her serve. But that’s exactly when you have a hiccup, you don’t do very well.”
Federer is also looking for history at the All England Club. The 33-year-old Swiss great has won seven Wimbledon titles and needs one more to move ahead of Pete Sampras and 1880s player Willie Renshaw.
Federer last won Wimbledon in 2012, his last major title. But an extra week between the French Open and Wimbledon this year has given him a mental boost.
“It’s probably been the best preparation I’ve ever had for Wimbledon, for obvious reasons, because we have a week more on the grass,” Federer said. “Winning Halle has given me the extra confidence I guess it’s going to take me to win this title here.”
Williams hasn’t played since winning her third French Open title this month, but she has been practicing on grass in preparation for Wimbledon.
The extra week is definitely a help, Williams said, but that’s not all that rare for her.
“Actually, I had extra weeks plenty of times after the French Open, so I’ve had more time than normal,” said Williams, who lost in the first round at Roland Garros in 2012 and in the second round in 2014. “It definitely enables me to get more used to it, whereas before it wasn’t quite the same.”