In August, no doubt, Serena Williams will turn up at the US Open, the last tennis Grand Slam event for 2021, in the hope that she will be able to, at last, equal Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
The odds are stacked against Williams, given that she has been unable to win a Grand Slam event since January 2017. That year, she won the Australian Open.
After that, she has played in 18 Grand Slam events and been unable to win any of them. In some, she has even managed to make it to the final, but then stumbled at the last hurdle.
There are two factors that have got in her way: one, the emergence of younger players who can both match and outdo her in strength, speed and reflexes, and two, the fact that her abilities are not getting any better.
Players like Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep have shown, time and again, that they are not in awe of Williams. That factor which served her well — the fear of playing against Williams — has disappeared entirely.
Her most recent failure came at Wimbledon this year when she had to retire due to a leg injury. That is due to advancing age; she has been playing since 1999 and that is a very long period to be in competitive tennis.
In September, Williams will turn 40, which will make her almost double the age of some of her challengers on the women’s circuit.
It seems unlikely that she will achieve what she would like to: become the top women’s winner of Grand Slam titles. At best, she is likely to equal Court’s record.
Williams has missed several opportunities to retire while at the top of her game and seems obsessed with the idea of taking Court’s record. At times, it is pathetic to watch her as she tries to demand of herself something, which would have been really easy earlier in her career, and fails to pull it off.
An aging and faltering champion is always an object of pity. It is the last thing as which Williams would like to be remembered.