August 27, 2015 / 10:00 PM / 2 years ago

Serena insists pressure not a factor in Grand Slam bid

Serena Williams of the U.S. speaks during a news conference at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center ahead of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, August 27, 2015. Play begins at the U.S. Open on August 31. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Serena Williams said on Thursday she is treating the upcoming U.S. Open just like any other, even though she is well aware of the historical impact the year’s final grand slam may have.

The three-times defending champion enters the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 tournament in New York as the odds-on favorite to win and become the first player in 27 years to complete a Grand Slam by capturing all four majors in one season.

“I don’t feel that fresh pressure,” Williams, who has already claimed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2015, said after the draw for the U.S. Open.

“If I make it far, maybe I’ll start to feel pressure. But as of now I really don’t feel any. I‘m just here to perform and do the best I can.”

Williams said that going for her second ‘Serena Slam’ at Wimbledon, where she triumphed in July to hold all four slam titles at once, prepared her for the media onslaught at this U.S. Open.

“At Wimbledon I was going for the second Serena Slam. That is rare. That really gave me the best practice and preparation in terms of going for the Grand Slam,” Williams said.

Williams, dominating the women’s game at the advanced age of 33, would join Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) as the only female Grand Slam winners.

But Williams is playing for much more.

A victory would be her record-setting seventh U.S. Open singles triumph, pushing her past Chris Evert on the all-time tournament list in the Open era.

It would also tie her with Graf at 22 grand slam singles titles for second place on the all-time list behind Court (24).

“There’s always another record, then there’s always another person to catch up with or to pass,” said Williams, who won her first grand slam singles title at the 1999 U.S. Open.

Lacking a primary rival, Williams has grown even better in the slams, notching eight wins going back to the 2012 season.

She gives her coach Patrick Mouratoglou credit.

“Working with Patrick has helped me a lot and helped me to achieve that consistency and have different goals, change different elements in my game, and also just be overall a better competitor on every single surface and every single match,” she said.

Williams would not be drawn into comparisons with other greats of the game.

“I never really thought I would be in this position where I would even be talking about records, talking about passing Steffi Graf or even mentioning Margaret Court,” she said. “I just grew up trying to be the best that I could.

“I can sit here and say that I’m the greatest player that I’ve been able to be. It’s really difficult to compare one generation to another.”

Williams, seeking her fourth consecutive U.S. Open title, may not be obsessed with numbers but she does pay attention.

“I do read numbers and I do see numbers,” she said. “I believe in those numbers.”

Editing by Frank Pingue

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