Jun 28, 2016

    Williams serene even as rivals smell blood


    SERENA Williams gave little away on Sunday as she assessed her chances of retaining her Wimbledon title - and dismissed suggestions that she is under any pressure.

    The 34-year-old American has not struck a ball competitively since losing to Spain's Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final on June 4 - a defeat that frustrated her hopes of matching Steffi Graf's professional era record of 22 grand slam titles.

    Considering she also fell at the final hurdle in Australia against Angelique Kerber and went out of the US Open semi-finals last year when two wins away from a calendar grand slam, Williams would be forgiven for feeling a little edgy.

    But she was hiding any tension well to the world's media on the eve of the tournament.

    Williams never feels the need to play grass-court warm-up tournaments, preferring instead to hit on the hard courts back home before arriving in the week before the tournament.

    It is a tried and tested formula. Asked if she has found out anything about 148th-ranked Swiss qualifier Amra Sadikovic, whom she starts her campaign against today, she said: "Not yet. But, normally, my coach obviously does a lot of research, or the most that he can, then we go from there.

    "Honestly, it doesn't matter who I play.

    "It doesn't matter to me."

    While her approach is nonchalant, there are some who feel Williams' struggle to match Graf's record is playing on her mind.

    Former champion Chris Evert reckons Williams is still the favourite but says other players are seeing a chink in her armour as she gets older.

    "In the last few years, she's been good enough at 60 per cent to 70 per cent to win matches," said the American.

    "Now, I don't think it's going to win matches for her. The competition has gotten better.

    "They're less intimidated by her. They've seen a couple of bad losses."