Serena Williams will head to the French Open knowing time is running out for her just to equal Margaret Court’s all-time grand slam record, let alone break it.
Williams will have just two weeks to shake off the disappointment of her semi-final loss at the US Open and resume her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th grand slam title on the claycourts at Roland Garros.
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The American great has been one title behind Court's all-time record for over three years, failing to win a major since bagging her 23rd at the Australian Open in January 2017.
Williams has lost four grand slam finals since returning to the circuit in 2018 following the birth of her daughter and once again fell short on Thursday when she bowed out to Victoria Azarenka with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 defeat in the US Open semi-finals.
When asked by a reporter if she felt like her chance to surpass Court was slipping away, Williams was uncertain.
“I don't know. I mean, it's obviously disappointing,” Williams told reporters before confirming she will participate in the French Open.
“At the same time I did what I could today.
“I feel like other times I've been close and I could have done better. Today I felt like I gave a lot.”
Many pundits have said Williams might be running out of time to win a grand slam again.
And it’s definitely not getting any easier for Williams, who will turn 39 a day before the main draw kicks off in Paris on her least rewarding surface where the American won her third and last title in 2015.
Asked how the string of losses deep in the tournaments affect her morale as she strives to become the most successful women's player, Williams said: “I don't know. I just ... I don't know. I haven’t thought about that actually.”
Williams appeared destined for a date with Naomi Osaka in the US Open final when she cantered through the opening set with three breaks of Azarenka's service.
“Then she just kept fighting. She just changed and started playing better and better,” Williams said.
“Maybe I took a little too much off the gas pedal at some point.
“I made a lot more errors. I didn’t win a lot on my second serves. I served well, but I didn't dominate the way I needed to in that.”
Serena Williams shrugs off leg injury
Williams was already struggling to keep up in a fast-paced semi-final when she stopped behind the baseline after a third-set point and leaned over.
She held that pose for a bit, then clutched at her left ankle and asked for a trainer.
While Williams took a medical timeout for a tape job, her latest bid for a 24th grand slam singles title seemingly slipping away, Azarenka sat in a sideline seat, eyes closed, calm and composed as can be.
After a delay, action resumed, and while Williams raised the force of her shots and volume of her shouts, it was Azarenka who finished off the victory to return to a major championship final for the first time since 2013.
Azarenka was brilliant as she claimed her first win against Williams in 11 career slam match-ups between the pair.
Williams said the leg issue wasn’t why she lost.
“I don't think that had anything to do with it,” Williams said. “Ultimately, it didn't affect my play at all.”
On Saturday, Azarenka will face Osaka for the championship in a meeting between two-time major champions who have both been ranked No.1 in the past and have been by far the two best players since tennis resumed last month after a pandemic-forced hiatus.
Azarenka has won 11 matches in a row, while Osaka's streak is at 10 after her 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-3 win over Jennifer Brady in a hard-hitting clash filled with fast serves and strong forehands.