Biot (France) (AFP)
Serena Williams turns 40 on Sunday with her longtime coach hailing her as the “greatest of all time” and a pioneer of “bullying” in tennis.
The American superstar is desperately stranded on 23 Grand Slam titles, one short of the all-time record held by Margaret Court.
However, his French coach Patrick Mouratoglou told AFP his legacy is secure.
“Margaret Court was playing at a time when three-quarters didn’t even go to Australia (for the Australian Open), where tennis was an amateur sport, when the draw was 16 players,” said Mouratoglou.
Court, an Australian, won 11 of her Grand Slam titles at her home event.
“I don’t want to disrespect Margaret Court, but it’s a different time. Yes, it would be better if Serena breaks her record but, if she doesn’t, she will remain the greatest player of all time. “
Williams, whose seven-time winner Sister Venus is still touring at 41, won the last of her 23 Slams at the 2017 Australian Open.
This was achieved while she was pregnant with her daughter Olympia, born in September of the same year.
With former world number one Serena now at 40 in the rankings, questions have been asked about her future in the sport.
– ‘How much does she want? –
“She still has it. The question is, how badly does she want it and what is she willing to do to make it happen? », Added his trainer.
“Since she had her daughter, it’s more difficult. She finds it very difficult not to put her life as a mother before her life as a player, which is understandable.
“I think that’s the main reason she didn’t win a Grand Slam. His family comes first and in order to be able to do great things in one area, that area cannot come second.
“She’s thinking and we’ll see what comes out of it.” “
Williams has been beaten in her four Grand Slam final appearances since her Melbourne triumph in 2017.
She has not played the league game in a major tournament since Wimbledon in 2019.
She missed this year’s US Open in New York City, where she won her first Slam in 1999, with a hamstring injury.
The last of his 73 career titles arrived in Auckland in January 2020.
If Williams fails to match Court’s record, Mouratoglou says she should be appreciated for the weapons she has brought to the sport – both on and off the court during her 26-year career.
“She changed tennis,” he insisted.
“She brought an athletic dimension that there was not at all, she opened the doors, with her sister Venus, to a whole generation of players because it was a white sport.
“She invented bullying in tennis because she has a presence that scares others. For a very long time, it was impressive.
“She also brought the company to women’s tennis. Before her, the company was very small and with it, it has become huge because it has such an aura, it has also become such a marketing object, that huge contracts are possible for the players. “
Mouratoglou teamed up with Williams in 2012 and saw her development as a player, both physically and mentally.
He believes his only equal on the men’s side when it comes to will-to-win is Novak Djokovic, who is three less slam tournaments.
“At the very beginning, she lacked a lot of confidence. She was not herself. But I knew who she was, ”Mouratoglou explained.
“When she qualified for the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2012, when she was seventh in the world, I’m at the restaurant, she runs towards me with a smile, saying ‘that’s great, whatever. comes now I’m third in the world on Monday! ‘
– “It sucks” –
“I told him ‘so what? I’m surprised you find that great, explain to me. ‘ She felt really bad and didn’t answer me.
“But in the evening, she texted me, ‘Sorry for what I said earlier. Number three sucks, number two too. ‘ At that point, I reconnected her with herself. “
It was that same summer that Mouratoglou believed Williams played the best tennis of his life.
“The London Olympics were exceptional. She won Wimbledon and the confidence that victory gave her made her walk on water.
“She pulverized everyone at the Games. In the final, it’s 6-0, 6-1 against Sharapova! It was there that she played the best tennis of her life, she was untouchable.
“In late 2014 and early 2015, she won four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, playing very well.
“In 2013, she told me that she had not won Roland Garros for 11 years and that she would like to make it her goal. She did not lose a match on clay that year… She won Charleston, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros, Bastad. Even Rafael Nadal never did that. “
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