By Corey Knapp
The stage is set. The lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York are on. And one name buzzes throughout the grounds, Serena.
Serena Williams, already quite possibly the greatest women’s tennis player ever, goes for the historic calendar Grand Slam when she steps onto the court as the 2015 U.S. Open begins this week. No woman has won all of the year’s major tournaments, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open, since Steffi Graf in 1988.
Not only will Serena chase the “Calendar Slam,” but also she will defend her title from last season, which started her “Serena Slam,” a term coined as she went on to win the subsequent three majors as well. A victory in this year’s event will be William’s 5th major title in a row and 22nd overall, tied with Graf for second-most in women’s history. Capturing the Grand Slam will cement her legacy as the greatest of all time, the GOAT, as the kids like to say. She just doesn’t see it that way.
“No, I can’t sit here and say that. But I can sit here and say that I’m the greatest player that I’ve been able to be,” Williams said during U.S. Open Media Day. “I think different generations and different times have different champions, have different greats, have different levels of players. It’s really difficult to compare one generation to another…”
Modesty aside, all signs point to a Serena victory, though best-of-three set matches guarantee nothing. She enters the U.S. Open with a dominant 2015 record of 48-2. While her tournament draw features proven competitors capable of pulling off the upset, including an intriguing potential quarterfinal matchup with sister Venus Williams, Serena exists as the only player standing in Serena’s way. In anticipation of her completing the feat, for the first time in tournament organizers’ knowledge, the women’s final scheduled for Saturday, September 12 sold out before the men’s final.
I am not alone in hoping that the pressure and the moment will not be too much for Williams. Roger Federer, a history-maker in his own right who could very well be playing in the men’s final on Sunday, will root for Serena.
“Yeah, I hope she does it, number one,” Federer stated. “Number two, of course it’s intriguing and interesting to see, you don’t get this kind of an opportunity many times in your career, or in tennis, for that matter, so it will be very interesting to follow.”
A quick glimpse into the men’s tournament offers additional appealing storylines, such as a red-hot Federer’s quest for major win No. 18 that has eluded the legend for 3 years. Or can Rafael Nadal, after battling injuries and his own doubts, regain the rhythm, confidence, and tenacity that vaulted him to the top of the sport?
“To have the confidence back you need to win,” Nadal claimed. “If you’re not winning, then you won’t have high confidence. To win you need to play well. To win a lot you need to play very well and have a lot of confidence, and I’m playing well today.”
But regardless of whether Federer plays under the stadium lights dressed in all black and throws in a reverse between-the-legs winner or Rafa bounces all over the court with his signature calls of ‘Vamos!’ and fist pumps, all eyes-and ears for that matter, given her intense shrieks after points-will be on Serena. History awaits on her racquet, and the audience will rise, yearning to witness it.
After Championship Point, the loudest venue in tennis will roar at new levels. Serena in straight sets. Game. Set. Match. Grand Slam. Miss Williams.