Tennis: Serena shrugs off Wimbledon pressure as history beckons

Tennis: Serena shrugs off Wimbledon pressure as history beckons
Serena Williams celebrates after winning her match against Maria Sharapova.
PHOTO: Reuters

LONDON - Serena Williams insists she doesn't care about making history even though the world number one can add more lustre to her legacy with victory over Garbine Muguruza in Saturday's Wimbledon final.

As if winning the sixth Wimbledon title and 21st major of her career wouldn't be enough to underline Williams' credentials as one of the all-time greats, she has a slew of other milestones within reach in her 25th Grand Slam final.

After demolishing Maria Sharapova to move into her eighth Wimbledon final, Serena, who has a remarkable 38-1 record in 2015, is just one victory away from holding all four major titles at the same time - a rare feat she last achieved in 2002-03.

A win over surprise finalist Muguruza would also make the 33-year-old American the first woman to land the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since she last achieved the double in 2002.

Perhaps most significantly, lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for the first time since 2012 would leave Serena needing only to defend the US Open to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to claim a calendar Grand Slam.

But rather than dwell on those legacy-defining possibilities, Williams made it clear the only reason she is in such a privileged position is because she no longer frets about her place in the pantheon of tennis greats.

"I don't want the pressure of that. It's been okay just to free my brain," she said.

"I've won so many Grand Slam titles. I'm at a position where I don't need to win another Wimbledon. I could lose on Saturday. Sure, I won't be happy. But I don't need another Wimbledon title.

"Getting to 18 majors was super stressful for me. I was so desperate to do it. After that, I've just been really enjoying myself." While coy about her achievements, Serena admits her success is fuelled by a fiercely competitive streak that refuses to dim even at an age when many of her former rivals have long since retired.

"I really hate losing. So I'm that kind of person that will work hard, work harder than anybody else to make sure I don't get that," she said.

"I keep reinventing myself, always try to improve something or get better." Williams, the first woman to reach the finals of all four majors consecutively since Justine Henin in 2006, is heavily favoured to defeat Muguruza, a Grand Slam final debutant who has just one tour-level title compared to Serena's 67.

But Williams need only recall her shock loss against Muguruza at last year's French Open to ensure she guards against complacency.

"It's definitely not an easy match-up. She actually has a win against me. She's given me problems in the past," Serena said. "I don't think she's intimidated at all." Muguruza's tense three-set win over Polish 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the last four made her the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1996.

Conchita Martinez was the last Spanish women's champion in 1994 and the 21-year-old revealed she has been inspired to overcome her dislike of grass by regular chats with her compatriot.

"We were laughing, when the tournament started, because I was like, 'Conchita, I'm not sure about grass'," she said.

"She said, 'C'mon, you can play good'. She's just telling me every day, every match, 'Keep going, you're doing great'. Giving me power." And Muguruza, Venezuela-born and Barcelona-raised, says beating Serena for the loss of just four games in Paris, shows she has no reason to fear the American.

"Roland Garros will help me a lot because every time you play these important matches, you feel, 'Okay, I've been here before. I know what I have to do'," she said.

"To have Serena in the Wimbledon final is the hardest match you can have.

"But if you want to win a Grand Slam, when you dream, you say, I want (to beat) Serena in the final."

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