Patrick Mouratoglou believes Serena Williams no longer feels able to fully express herself on a tennis court – and that has hampered her bid to win a 24th Grand Slam title.
Williams, who turns 40 later this month, has been bidding to equal Margaret Court’s all-time major record since winning the Australian Open in 2017.
She has lost in four finals and two semi-finals since, and will have to wait until 2022 for her next attempt after withdrawing from the US Open due to injury.
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Williams’ coach Mouratoglou has told Eurosport he thinks the weight of history has played a part in her near-misses over the last few years.
"If I knew the secret, I would make it a lot easier for Serena. But playing for a 24th title like Serena has been is a new pressure altogether, it is one match for history. Sometimes, it is one set for history. This is the highest pressure possible.
“Even though these guys are the best in the world to deal with pressure, sometimes it is too much, sometimes it catches you, sometimes you get too nervous or too angry because the emotion is too difficult to control.
“When it comes to Serena, I think there have been some traumas in the last years – maybe she feels like she cannot express herself anymore and I don’t think it’s good for her. I think she is good when she is herself. I don’t feel like she is authorising herself to be herself in several moments in big finals and I think this hurt her.”
Williams hasn’t played since her emotional first-round retirement at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
In her statement on Instagram to announce her US Open withdrawal she said “see you soon” to her fans, but Mouratoglou said in August he does not know if that will be this year or 2022.
“I don’t know; we didn’t talk about that. We just talked about the US Open, that was the last goal of the season. First she has to digest, then we can sit and talk. Today, I’m not certain of anything in one sense or another.”
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While Williams will not be bidding for history in New York, Novak Djokovic is aiming to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Calendar Slam, and the first man in history to win 21 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic started with a four-set win over Holger Rune on Tuesday, and Mouratoglou thinks nerves will play a part as the world No 1 progresses further in the tournament.
"This year is special for Novak, he was always far from the two others (Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal) in terms of number of Grand Slams. Now, he is equal – 20 – 20 – 20. So, he knows it’s an opportunity to really re-write history and I can feel that the tension throughout the year is getting bigger and bigger.
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“The first two sets of the Roland-Garros final against Stefanos Tsitsipas I felt he was super nervous, much more than usual. At the Olympics, he kind of lost it a little bit, he got crazy angry and he lost. I can feel it building. This moment for him is a lot about dealing with his nerves. In the last tournament he played he lost in a semi-final against Alex Zverev when he got crazy nervous so he has a bad taste in his mouth and he needs to get rid of it.”
Djokovic, who is now 16-0 in the first round at the US Open, will be a strong favourite in his next match as he faces world No 121 Tallon Griekspoor.
Griekspoor beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 2-6 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 7-5 after three hours and 38 minutes.
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