Serena Williams admitted after winning her seventh Wimbledon championship that she had some sleepless nights while feeling the pressure to win her 22nd career Grand Slam title. She had two chances this year to catch Steffi Graf for second-most slams in women’s history and fell short both times.
Now that she navigated that minor speed bump, Williams can continue her pursuit of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles. And once she surpasses Court’s total, which is a matter of time, nobody should be shocked if Williams pushes toward 28 or 30 slams before hanging up her racket.
Williams feels pressure, but it’s not the same pressure her younger rivals experience on tour. They feel pressure to win. The pressure for Williams comes from within, a desire to meet her standards for excellence. More than anything else, it contributes to her becoming the best player in tennis history and perhaps the best woman athlete ever.
In a documentary released on Epix last month, the 34-year-old sounded like she was nowhere near retirement. She talked about her obsession to compete, to keep fighting, until she could no longer. It makes you wonder if she’ll now be motivated by Court’s record, later by her test against time.
Based on her performances this year, and her commitment to training, it’s possible for her to play until she’s 40. She has nearly tripled the average length of a professional tennis career. She has reached the finals of at least two slams five times in the last seven years, so reaching her stated goal of winning one per year seems a formality.
She owned all four majors at the same time – the Serena Slam – twice in her career, 12 years apart, including last summer. She won the first three slams in 2015 before falling in the U.S. Open. She reached the final in the first three slams this year, losing the Australian and French before winning Wimbledon.
Twenty-six slam titles are within reason, 30 within reach. It will depend on how much pressure she puts on herself. The more pressure she places on herself, the more motivated she becomes, the better her results. For all the physical tools that she possesses, her mental strength sets her apart.
• Here’s hoping Yankees fans have enjoyed flame-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman. There’s a good chance they’ll be saying goodbye after barely saying hello. Chapman is eligible for free agency, making him a prime candidate to be traded to a World Series contender before the deadline.
The Yanks took a chance on Chapman after he was suspended for the first 30 games under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. He has 17 saves in 26 appearances. The Yanks, six games behind the final wild-card spot with five teams ahead of them, haven’t put Chapman in enough save positions.
GM Brian Cashman is listening to offers for Chapman and Carlos Beltran, who batted .297 with 19 homers and 55 RBIs in the first 82 games.
• It would have been neat to see Milos Raonic win Wimbledon if only because he would have been the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam. One thing I love about Canada, more than the mountain lakes near Whistler, more than poutine in Ottawa, even more than a cold Kokanee, is the way they carry the national flag in sports.
• Three thoughts while watching roughly 75 youth baseball games this summer:
1. The quality of play has diminished greatly because not enough kids play on their own and, therefore, lack repetitions. Years ago, before video games and helicopter parents, many kids played some form of ball all day, every day. House leagues were so well stocked that travel leagues weren’t needed. Sadly, there are too many teenagers playing travel ball who can’t catch because they don’t play catch in the backyard.
2. To repeat, kids should play with wood bats rather than $350 rocket launchers sold to parents who believe Little Johnny is Bryce Harper. Bat manufacturers dumbed down bats to create less exit speeds, but tiny sluggers still crush balls with excuse-me swings. Wood bats are cheaper, safer and encourage smarter baseball.
3. Fundamentals have reached an all-time low. If your coaches aren’t telling you, allow me: field the ball with two hands, watch the ball hit the bat and, for heaven’s sake, hit the cutoff man. Playing the right way makes the game much more fun.
• I crossed paths with Lenny Dykstra only a few times back in the mid-1990s when he played for the Phillies and I worked for the Associated Press in Philadelphia. Five minutes with him was enough for anyone to realize he was one of the most self-absorbed bores in professional sports.
Apparently, not much has changed. Based on excerpts from his memoir, he comes off like a mean-spirited narcissist who cared only about himself.
I found it comical, however, that the same man who never read a book until he was sitting in jail felt compelled to write one. He fired his ghost writer during the project, claiming he needed to write the book himself.
If he wants to slam teammates in a tell-all book, fine. But he also should tell the whole truth about how he swindled family, friends and investors out of millions of dollars on his way to prison. Boston radio host Kirk Minihane had the audacity to ask Dykstra tough questions during a podcast interview, and Dykstra reportedly hung up on him. Good for Minihane, who was in the minority while others fawned over “Nails.”
To me, he comes off like a con man looking for a quick buck.
• Every time Justin Bailey’s name has come up since the second half of last season in Rochester, it becomes more apparent that he’s improving in every facet of his game.
Bailey had the size, speed and aggression to play in the NHL long before the Sabres development camp. The word about him lately is that he’s maturing more by the day and blossoming into a player who could help them sooner than later.
He could become the hard-driving forward the Sabre need on their bottom two lines, one with enough bang to help the forecheck and scoring punch to take pressure off the top-six forwards. If he’s scratching the surface of his potential, look out.