Serena Williams has sent an ominous warning to her rivals in the tennis world that she expects to be even better on her comeback to the WTA Tour as she targets a record 25 Grand Slam titles.
The 36-year-old believes the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia will allow her to feel more free on court, although she remains hungry to overtake Margaret Court’s haul of 24 majors.
Williams will not defend her Australian Open crown after delaying her comeback, but remains confident of adding to her collection upon her return.
‘To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,’ she told Vogue.
‘But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams.
‘I’m well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on 25.
‘And actually, I think having a baby might help. When I’m too anxious I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born. Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match.
‘I don’t need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don’t need them. That’s a different feeling for me.’
While she expects to have an easier life mentally on court, the 23-time Grand Slam champion insists that she is more focused than ever to beat Court’s record.
‘I remember how stressed I was about getting to Grand Slam number eighteen, tying Chrissie [Evert] and Martina [Navratilova],’ she added.
‘I had lost every Grand Slam that year. I was in the US Open, and Patrick [Mouratoglou], my coach, said, “Serena, this doesn’t make sense. You’re so stressed about eighteen. Why not 30? Why not 40?”
‘For me, that clicked. I won 18, 19, and 20 right after that. Why would I want to stand side by side when I can stand out on my own?
‘I think sometimes women limit themselves. I’m not sure why we think that way, but I know that we’re sometimes taught to not dream as big as men, not to believe we can be a president or a CEO, when in the same household, a male child is told he can be anything he wants. I’m so glad I had a daughter. I want to teach her that there are no limits.’
After Williams’ absence from the tour due to pregnancy, there’s been a battle for supremacy at the top of the women’s game.
Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and current world No. 1 Simona Halep have all sat atop of the rankings, but Williams warned her rivals she’ll be back at the top soon enough.
It’s interesting,’ she said. ‘There hasn’t been a clear No. 1 since I was there. It will be cool to see if I get there again, to what I call my spot—where I feel I belong.
‘I don’t play to be the second best or the third best. If there’s no clear No. 1, it’s like, yeah, I can get my spot back. But if there is a clear number one, that’s cool, too, because it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna come for you.’