The final chapter of Serena Williams’ historic Grand Slam pursuit will commence Monday in New York when she takes on Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko in the first round of the 2015 U.S. Open.
Williams is aiming to become the first woman to complete the calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. In fact, just three women have accomplished the feat, and many of the sport’s greatest players — such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Monica Seles — are not among them.
The chances of Williams making history are pretty good, based on a number of factors.
For starters, the U.S. Open is a tournament she has dominated throughout her career, but specifically over the last four years. Williams’ last defeat at this event came in 2011 when Australian Samantha Stosur beat her in the final in straight sets.
Since that defeat, Williams has won three consecutive U.S. Open crowns, a run that includes a 21-match win streak. Her 12 hard-court singles titles are the most all time, and it’s a surface on which she produces a lot of her best tennis.
Williams also benefits from this year’s U.S. Open draw. Maria Sharapova, arguably the second-best player on tour and the toughest challenge for Williams — even though the American has won the last 17 matches of the rivalry — withdrew from the tournament Sunday, citing a leg injury. Other potential opponents who could test Williams are Sloane Stephens (who beat Serena at the 2013 Australian Open) and her sister, Venus. That said, Williams would be an overwhelming favorite against either player.
No. 5-ranked Petra Kvitova, No. 4-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and No. 2-ranked Simona Halep are on the other side of the bracket, giving Williams one of the easier paths to the final in some time.
Aside from making history with a single-season Grand Slam, another U.S. Open triumph would give Williams 22 career Grand Slam singles titles (not including her 13-0 mark in doubles finals). That would tie her with Graf for second all time. Margaret Court, one of the three women ever to complete the single-season Grand Slam, is the all-time leader with 24.
As Williams embarks on the final portion of her Grand Slam pursuit, it’s important to appreciate her brilliance over the next few weeks. She’s on a run of dominance rarely seen in any sport. One of the few comparables is Tiger Woods winning four consecutive major golf championships, starting with the 2000 British Open and ending with the 2001 Masters.
There isn’t much Williams hasn’t accomplished in tennis, and a calendar Grand Slam would make her not only the greatest women’s tennis player ever but also the best women’s athlete in history.
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