Serena eases quest for perfection at US Open


New York (AFP)

Even after 23 Grand Slam singles titles and a glittering career that has spanned four decades, Serena Williams says she still has to remind herself that no one is perfect.

The 38-year-old superstar took another step toward an all-time record-equalling Grand Slam title at the US Open on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Russia's Margarita Gasparyan in the second round

Williams' straight sets win in 1hr 33min on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court put her into a third-round meeting with fellow American Sloane Stephens.

Williams, 38, looked in imperious form in the opening set, serving well and unfurling some thunderous groundstrokes to keep Gasparyan on the back foot.

However she didn't have it all her own way in the second, being broken twice by Gasparyan who clawed her way back to 4-4.

However the 117th ranked Russian was unable to build on that momentum and was broken when serving to stay in the match.

Williams said she was unfazed by her slight wobble in the second set.

"It wasn't that frustrating," she said. "I felt like she returned really well and I think that's been what's holding me back as I get frustrated.

"But I'm out here and I'm fighting and I felt like it was just a minor setback and if anything it can help me know what not to do next time."

Williams said she is learning to dial back her relentless pursuit of perfection, one of the hallmarks of her career.

"I always feel like I'm not perfect unless I'm perfect," Williams said.

"That's not a fun way to live your career and live your life.

"So it doesn't matter if I lose 20 points in a row now. I just feel like, 'It's OK, it's fine, I'm here, and I'm happy. I get to play tennis after all these years.'

"I always feel joy when I win. But that's also unrealistic because you can't win every single match every time, and that's kind of the pressure I put on myself.

"It's just completely unrealistic. So I don't. I had to take a step back and just really say, 'OK, Serena, no matter who you are or what you are, no one has ever done that.'"

Williams is also adjusting to the eerie conditions at this year's tournament, where games are taking place without spectators because of COVID-19.

"It's interesting, I mean I love the crowd here, obviously, but it's something cool," Williams said.

"I've been playing so long I now play in the modern area where there's no crowd, it's all digital. It's just a little more calming I think."

Williams now turns her attention to the challenge of 26th seed Stephens in the last 32 on Saturday.

"She's a great competitor," Williams said of the 2017 US Open winner.

"It's an incredibly interesting match, because she's actually a US Open champion. She's a great player. You can't win a Grand Slam and not be really, really, really, really, really good."