Williams chasing 22nd Slam to prove doubters wrong
SERENA Williams finds herself under siege from revitalised rivals and an army of doubters as the defending champion starts her bid for a seventh Wimbledon title and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown.
This year, she has won only one of her five tournaments, in Rome in May, while enduring a pair of shock defeats in the Australian and French Open finals.
Williams is still stuck on 21 Grand Slam titles - one short of Steffi Graf's Open era record and three behind the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court - ahead of Wimbledon, which gets under way on Monday.
The 34-year-old is the oldest woman to be ranked No. 1 in the world and, with off-court interests including the fashion industry and a recent appearance in a video for pop star Beyonce's Lemonade single, critics have claimed Williams is no longer so focused on her tennis.
Given that she compiled a remarkable 53-3 match record last year, even Williams had to admit this year has been a disappointment by her sky-high standards.
"Not as great as I want it to be," she said when she was asked to assess her year so far.
"I could do better.
"But, honestly, that's how I felt about 2015."
In the circumstances, she will be relieved to feel grass under her feet as she returns to the venue where she won the first of her six Wimbledon titles in 2002.
"I've had people put me down because I didn't look like them," Williams said in a recent documentary.
"I've had people look past me because of the colour of my skin.
"I've had people overlook me because I was a woman.
"I'm still going."