Serena Williams is a self-described perfectionist and when the American superstar pleads for the record 24th Grand Slam single, she tries to silence her inner critic.
Williams reached the third round of the US Open on Thursday after the third seed defeated Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-4 behind closed doors in New York’s Flushing Meadows.
Having won a major since winning the 2017 Australian Open and losing four Grand Slam finals after their last win at Melbourne Park, Williams showed an improved performance against Gasparyan, but the former world number 1 was still not quite satisfied.
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With such high expectations and mounting pressure as she is about to tie Margaret Court’s long-running record, Williams – who made 16 casual mistakes versus 24 in the opening round – told reporters, “The only thing that makes me nervous is real I like, because I always have the feeling that I won’t win every point.
“I went back and looked at myself and that’s not what I usually do. Usually I’m just calm. And I just think with the pressure and everything I felt, I felt like I just had to be perfect. I always don’t feel perfect unless I’m perfect, this is not a fun way to live your career and your life.
“So it doesn’t matter if I lose 20 points in a row now. I just feel like it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here and I’m happy. After all these years I can play tennis. So I see it’s just – it’s really nothing. It’s really just me and my mind. “
“I think in general I am always happy when I win. But that is also unrealistic because you can’t win every single game and that’s the pressure I put on myself,” continued the 38- year old Williams continued. “It’s just completely unrealistic.
“I had to take a step back and really say, ‘OK Serena, no matter who you are or what you are, nobody’s ever done that. I mean, I think [unbeaten boxing legend] Floyd Mayweather did, but damn it.
“So I think I could have done it. But no, and then I just think how thankful I am to be out here and how much fun I had, and I just had to come back to that. When I realized that it was a a little better. It was a little better. “
The six-time US Open champion, who is next to face 2017 winner and compatriot Sloane Stephens, added, “I’m a perfectionist 3 or 4, maybe 4, and I went to school and did the alphabet and it wasn’t perfect. I just stayed up and kept erasing it until I got it perfect.
“Then I would cry and then I would erase and repeat and repeat. I remember waking up the next day and not finishing my homework because I kept deleting it. That was really the story of my life.
“It’s so, so crazy because my daughter does exactly the same thing … it’s just something that’s innate, and I’ve just always done it. It’s like, ‘OK Serena, stop it. Perfection is – just Jesus was perfect so just stop. ‘”