PARIS: As a serial winner Serena Williams has broken records throughout her career, but since September there is one milestone that has loomed ever larger in halting her progress towards the game’s pantheon. It is marked ‘total grand slam wins’, and frames a debate about who to consider the greatest woman player of all time.
One name on a very short list of candidates is Serena herself and another is Steffi Graf, who holds the professional-era record of 22 singles titles at the game’s four blue riband events. The American is one behind that and, back in September when she seemed as dominant as at any time since turning professional in 1995, looked odds-on to tie the record at the US Open.
But, revealing a fragility few had anticipated, she fell short there and did so again in the finals of the two subsequent majors, most recently against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in Paris on Saturday. For Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, winning number 22 — and thence upward to the all-time record of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court, who straddled the amateur and professional eras — is still very much on the agenda.
“You can see blockages and mental problems. I see neither,” he said. “I see how difficult it is to win a grand slam, how difficult to set all-time records... It will take the time it takes... but we will do it.”
Does Williams, who turns 35 in September, have enough left in the tank? Her coach believes she still has the game and, just as importantly, the passion to do just that.
“If she was indifferent about making history in her sport that would be a concern,” Mouratoglou said.
“When there is tension and when the (opponent’s) level of play is higher there are no more solutions. If (Serena’s) game wasn’t good enough to win this Roland Garros we have to do better next time.”