Serena Williams acknowledges a player with her legendary status will always have a target on her back, but she insists she would not have it any other way.
The American great’s latest attempt to level Margaret Court’s overall tally of 24 Grand Slam singles titles was in jeopardy during Saturday’s Round 3 contest against Sloane Stephens at the US Open before she rallied to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.
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Williams’ movement and timing were well off during the first set in New York, but Stephens had little riposte when the third seed raised her game.
Speaking at a virtual news conference after the win, Williams was asked how she copes with the pressure of regularly chasing records.
“Sometimes it’s harder than others. Every day having ‘Serena’ on your back is a massive target for the tour, for press, for stress,” she said. “But as Billie Jean King said, pressure is a privilege. So I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I just try to think about how fortunate I am to have been in this position, and honestly, to be Serena. It feels weird to say that.”
The former world No. 1 had spoken earlier in the tournament about how she can become flustered if things are not going to plan on court. On this occasion, though, Williams was for the most part the picture of calm even when Stephens was so dominant in the opening set.
“That’s my thing is just try to stay calm and be more serene,” she added with a smile. “But, yeah, I just knew it was important for me just to keep trying, just to keep going.”
Williams next faces Maria Sakkari in Round 4, a player who defeated Williams in the Western & Southern Open late last month.
Asked if that makes her task tougher, Williams replied: “No, I don’t think it’s anything tricky, especially when you lost, it’s good to kind of go back out there and try to do a little bit better.”