Samantha Stosur, the only player to bring down Serena Williams in the last four years in New York, believes suffocating pressure shapes as the American’s biggest threat to her grand slam quest.
Williams begins her quest to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to sweep all four majors in a calendar year on Monday against Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.
Victorious at the past four grand slam events and unbeaten at Flushing Meadows since Stosur ambushed her in the 2011 final on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 33-year-old Williams is the raging Open women’s favourite.
But as the world No.1 strives to join Americans Don Budge (1938) and Maureen Connolly (1953), Australians Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) and Margaret Smith Court (1970) and Graf as only the sixth player in tennis history to accomplish the feat, Stosur says it’s impossible for Williams to block out the history at stake.
“It would be hard to back against her considering she’s already got four in a row and hasn’t lost a match here for three years,” Stosur said.
“But it’s not an easy thing to achieve and that’s why it very rarely happens and she’s not immune to nerves and pressure and everything that’s going to come along with it.
“I can guarantee that probably the other 127 players in the draw would love to have that pressure going into their fourth grand slam (of the season).
“But at the end of the day it’s all relative to who you are and what you’re trying to achieve and it would be amazing if she could do it.
“No doubt about it, it would be phenomenal.”
A fourth consecutive Open triumph, and seventh in total, would also draw Williams level with Graf as the open-era grand slam title leader with 22 career majors.
The top seed readily admits she’s feeling the pressure but accepts the intensity as the price for dominating a generation of women’s tennis.
“I decided I prefer to have that pressure than the pressure of not winning,” said Williams, who landed her first grand slam crown at Flushing Meadows as a 17-year-old back in 1999.
“Not everyone can handle that pressure, but I’m okay with it. I would rather be in this position than another one.”
In the end, Williams’ biggest enemy might be herself.
“If I am playing well, then hopefully no one (else) will win,” she said.
“But we’ll see. It’s all up to me. If I decide to play right, it’ll be great.”