Tennis

Serena won't stress herself with Graf’s record

World No. 1 determined to block out thoughts of equalling Graf's record

Serena Williams said yesterday she was trying to block out her chances of equalling Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles, not needing the extra stress as history again beckons.

The dominant world No. 1 surged into her 26th Major final by dismantling Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 at the Australian Open, with her first set near flawless.

A win in tomorrow's decider against seventh seed Angelique Kerber would see her match Graf's mark that has stood since the German great's last Major win at the French Open in 1999.

But the American is trying to keep it off the radar, saying the pressure she was under when trying to equal Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert's 18 titles in 2014 was unbearable and not something she wanted again.

"I definitely block it out," she said of the Graf record. "I was one off last year, too. If I don't win on Saturday, I'll still be one off.

"It took me forever to get to 18. I was so stressed out. I don't want to relive that at all."

Williams (right) won her 17th title at the 2013 US Open but then went winless in three Grand Slams, with the pressure building, before finally making it 18 a year later at Flushing Meadows.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, Williams is already assured of being remembered as one of the best players the game has seen.

Yet despite being the undisputed world No. 1, winning eight of the last 14 Grand Slams, she said she did not allow herself to reflect on her record or relax.

"Not really, not yet," she said, when asked the question.

"I feel like when I play tougher opponents, when I play people who have beaten me in the past, are capable of doing so again, that I just have to be more focused.

"I've always said that when I'm playing at my best, it's difficult to beat me. Have I played at my best my whole career? I don't know.

"But I've been definitely trying to put in a lot of work and trying to get there."

Meanwhile, Kerber said yesterday she feels a responsibility to protect her fellow German Graf's Grand Slam record from Williams, but admits the job in front of her is formidable.

The 28-year-old powered into her first Grand Slam final by beating Briton Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-2 in the semi-finals yesterday and, when asked if she felt any duty to protect Graf's record, Kerber said: "I think so. I think so. The Germans must be together."

Despite the huge task facing her, Kerber is taking a crumb of comfort from having beaten Williams once before, at Cincinnati in 2012. The American has won all five other encounters between the pair.

"I think she is going out there to try to win again another Grand Slam, making history. This is her goal," she said.

"My goal is to maybe win my first Grand Slam. You know, I think she will have respect.

"I think she will go out there and she knows that she must play also good tennis to beat me.

"I'm feeling good. I'm healthy. I'm fit. I will try to win against her. That's for sure. I know it will be not easy." - Wire Services.

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