Serena Williams saw her hopes of completing the ‘Calendar Slam’ crushed in the semi-finals of the US Open last year. The world number one had already accomplished the feat of holding all four Major titles at once by triumphing at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, adding to her success at Flushing Meadows in 2014.
However, after taking the opening set of her contest against Roberta Vinci, the Italian stunned Williams by securing victory with 6-4 wins in the second and third set to clinch a final berth.
The American was crushed by her defeat, the only blemish on an outstanding year in 2015 where she edged ahead of compatriot Helen Wills Moody to position herself behind only Margaret Court and Steffi Graf in total Grand Slam titles with 21. Williams has remained at the peak of her powers despite her advancing years in 2016, reaching the finals of the Australian and French Opens, only to be bested by Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza respectively.
The 34-year-old joined Graf on 22 Grand Slam crowns with her triumph at Wimbledon, securing her seventh title at the All England Club by overcoming Kerber in straight sets on Centre Court. She will now aim to overtake the great German and close the gap on Court at the top of the list when she begins her campaign at Flushing Meadows.
Williams is backed in the latest Bet365 US Open betting odds at 5/4 to win the crown for a record seventh time in the Open era, taking her clear of Chris Evert, although still one behind Molla Bjurstedt Mallory in the history of the competition.
The obstacle standing in the way of the 34-year-old could be fatigue as she displayed issues in her premature exit at the Olympics where she crashed out of the singles tournament in the third round to Elina Svitolina. She committed several errors on the court, including five double faults in one game of the second set, suggesting that the additional strain of playing in the Games may have been too much for her to handle this season leaving her to surrender her crown to Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig.
Williams and her sister Venus had previously dumped out in the early stages of the women’s doubles competition, leaving her without a medal from her trip to Rio and perhaps with a point to prove in the final Major of the year. Should the American discover her best form then it would be hard to bet against her claiming her seventh title, although the form of her rivals should not be ignored.
Kerber was on the end of a stunning defeat in the gold medal match in Rio losing to Puig, but continued her consistent form of 2016 in the process of reaching the final. The German will be desperate to end her breakout year on a high note by winning her second title of the season. Simona Halep will also be in contention, aiming to go one better than her last appearance in the US Open when she was knocked out in the semis by eventual winner Flavia Pennetta.
The 24-year-old has struggled to deliver her best in 2016, although she did reach the quarter-finals of Wimbledon before being narrowly defeated by Kerber. She and the German should provide the largest obstacle to Williams enjoying another title at Flushing Meadows.