Serena Williams, piling up the records as she hurtles toward yet another Grand Slam title tilt at the US Open, can’t imagine stopping now.
Back when she was winning the first of her 22 Grand Slam titles to date, at the 1999 US Open, she didn’t expect she’d still be playing at the age of 34.
There have been disruptions and interruptions along the way, thanks to injury, illness and perhaps, sometimes, just boredom.
But her decision to keep going has her rewriting records that were never even on her radar, each one fuelling her desire to continue a spectacular spell of dominance.
“Now I don’t really see when I’m going to stop because I’m just enjoying these moments out here, getting to break records that I didn’t even know existed or I didn’t even know was possible,” Williams said.
On Monday, her 308th Grand Slam match win – a straight-sets thumping of Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova – gave her the most of any player, man or woman, in the Open Era.
“I think it’s very significant,” Williams said of breaking the record of 307 first established by Swiss great Roger Federer.
“I think it’s something that really talks about the length of my career,” she said. “I’ve been playing for a really long time, but also, you know, given that consistency up there. That’s something that I’m really proud of.”
Having matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon this year – after an agonizing dry spell – she is aiming to break that mark and close in further on Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
Number 23 could come this weekend with a seventh US Open title – which would carry her past the record she shares with Chris Evert.
Despite the impressive numbers there have been hiccups this season: shock defeats in the finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, a shoulder injury that hampered her after Wimbledon.
That means the world number one ranking, which she will have held for a record-equalling 186 weeks through the end of the tournament, can be seized by Germany’s Angelique Kerber – who toppled Williams in the final in Melbourne in January.
With Kerber through to the quarter-finals, Williams must reach the final to add a 187th week to her current reign, and if Kerber makes the championship match, Williams will have to beat her to stay top.
She batted away questions about the ranking early in the tournament, but made it clear that with her 35th birthday coming up on September 26 she’s still up for the grind that consistent greatness requires.
“I think when you really enjoy what you do, it’s different,” she said.