Serena Williams is on the cusp of tennis immortality.
For the fourth time now though, the American champion has come up short after Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu beat Williams 6-3 7-5 in the US Open final to claim her maiden grand slam title.
When the American won her 23rd grand slam singles title at the 2017 Australian Open, few would have entertained any doubts that she'd eventually win a 24th and equal Margaret Court's long-standing record.
The Aussie tennis great's milestone appears to be something weighing heavily on Williams' shoulders, no matter how much she may deny it.
The fact that the 37-year-old has now made it to four grand slam finals and come up short all four times speaks volumes.
However, what is more extraordinary - considering an almost unrivalled record in the big matches - is the way Williams has lost on each occasion.
Following her straight sets defeat to Andreescu, the American great has now failed to win a set in each of her four failed bids to match Court's record.
She has now lost more grand slam finals over the last three years than she did over a 17-year period prior to 2016.
The stunning fact has not been lost on fans, with many predicting that her chance has effectively come and gone - with age and a talented generation of young stars making the task that much more difficult.
Wow, this stat explain more then everything else the fear for the record by Serena Williams:— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) September 7, 2019
Slam finals lost by Serena Williams in 1999-2015:
Slam finals lost by Serena Williams in 2016-2019:
1\ No doubt in my mind that every time #Serena makes a Grand Slam Final, the all-time record is in her mind on every point.— lord_helpme57 (@lord_helpme57) September 7, 2019
Her opponents (Osaka, Andreescu, Kerber, Halep) have each played very well. pic.twitter.com/V7k4iuof7R
As far as Serena, proud of how she fought back to 5-5, but she went back to being passive as soon as she got even.— Matt Dowell (@TheMattDowell) September 7, 2019
Never ever ever thought I’d see Serena lose 4 major finals in a row. And she hasn’t won a set in any of them.
The once immaculate finals record now 23-10. #USOpen
How does she come back from this mentally? She should not have lost these last two grand slams.— mzjitt (@mzjitt) September 7, 2019
Another tough, tough loss for Serena Williams, one of sports' great champions but 0-4 in Grand Slam finals since her comeback to the sport in 2018. She has yet to win a set in any of those finals. Margaret Court's record of 24 will have to wait, again— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 7, 2019
Serena lost ANOTHER grand slam final wtf. Idk if it’s psychological but she needs to break that record ASAP— Jefe (@MillzArian) September 8, 2019
If Serena can't win that elusive grand slam at 2 consecutive US Opens in afraid she never will. Hasn't even won a set in her last 4 grand Slam finals. Not good— Queen Gooner 👸🏾 (@SoFire) September 7, 2019
This is bad, really bad. Serena has not won a set in last 4 finals appearances.— Negus44 🙅🏿♂️🙅🏿♂️🇯🇲🇯🇲 (@Hamfosi44) September 7, 2019
Serena not won more than 4 games in a set in a final since becoming a mum...🥴— DJ (@Pressdeej) September 7, 2019
Serena has not won a set in her last four GS finals. Four losses. Four different women. They can't all be great players. She has to find a way to stop beating herself.— Isaiah Webster III (@IsaiahWebster) September 7, 2019
Williams thanked her team for their support through her "downs and downs and downs" after her loss to Andreescu.
Williams turned in a nervy showing at Arthur Ashe Stadium, only briefly threatening to rally past her 19-year-old opponent late in the second set of her defeat.
The match came 20 years on from Williams' first US Open victory and, asked about her incredible longevity after another painful defeat, she was hopeful there is still time in her career to return to winning ways in slam finals.
"I just feel really honored to be out here. I'm just so proud I'm still out here competing at this level," she said at the post-match presentation. "It's not easy to be in this particular sport for 20 years.
"I have to give all thanks to Jehovah God for allowing me to have this moment to even be here.
"My team has been so supportive through all the ups and downs and downs and downs and downs and downs and downs...Hopefully we'll have some ups soon."
Williams has previously described herself as a fan of Andreescu and acknowledged that, with the exception of sister Venus, there is nobody she would rather lose to.
"Bianca played an unbelievable match. Congratulations," she said. "So proud and happy for you.
"It was incredible tennis out there. I wish I could have played better, but if anyone could win this tournament — outside of Venus — I'm happy it's Bianca."
Williams' only flicker of an opening in the match — a 23-minute stretch between Andreescu's first and second championship points — saw the crowd get involved, backing the American star.
She added: "I was just fighting at that point, trying to stay out there a little bit longer.
"Honestly, the fans started cheering so hard, it just made me play a little better and find a little bit more. I was really grateful for that."