Serena Williams is not just playing against Simona Halep in Saturday’s women’s final, she is playing against history.
Her record-equalling 24th Slam beckons — the numbers keep piling up for her — and she wants to do it as a mum. Also, at 37, you never know how many more chances you are going to get, so this is huge for her.
Serena is the favourite but it is not a foregone conclusion. She was favourite last year against Angelique Kerber and favourite against Naomi Osaka at the US Open, and that did not work out.`
Serena Williams is bidding to make history when she plays the Wimbledon final on Saturday
But former world No 1 Simona Halep won the French Open last year and has strong calibre
An interesting aspect, and it is something often seen at Grand Slams, is that you normally have to be tested before you win. For Williams it was the difficult first two rounds when she was not playing well while for Halep it was that very awkward match against Coco Gauff that she came through in the fourth round.
Do not underestimate Simona. She is a great athlete, a former world No 1 and French Open champion. She will not be fazed.
The key will be if she can move her opponent around enough, like Kerber did last year. I think it has been a smart move by Williams to play mixed doubles, and it has helped play her into form.
On balance I think she will be the one celebrating.
COCO MUST WALK BEFORE SHE RUNS
There is no question that Coco Gauff is the new star of Wimbledon, and we will be seeing her around for many years to come.
She was tremendously impressive, but at the same time I would urge that she does not need to rush anything. However good she is I remain strongly in favour of protecting 15-year-old girls, and keeping the rules that stop her from playing too much.
Agents and parents should not be allowed to dictate, even though there are pressures and temptations brought about by sponsors and the kind of TV viewing figures Coco has been attracting.
Give her time and space to mature, and what we saw last week with Naomi Osaka ought to be enough to focus people on this. Naomi won the US and Australian Opens, became a sensation within a few months and is now finding it hard to deal with the pressure.
Coco Gauff has been tremendously impressive at Wimbledon and earned scores of fans
We saw her having to leave her press conference on the verge of tears. She is much older than Coco and that should be a reminder that there is no hurry to make the young American a superstar.
ANDY LOOKS SET FOR THE SINGLES
Andy Murray did not make any finals this fortnight, but he should look at his grass-court doubles campaign over the past four weeks and be happy. To me there are strong indications that he can come back in singles, and that is surely what he wants to do.
I used to play doubles sometimes and enjoyed it, but apart from in the Davis Cup I did not take it too seriously. You become a tennis player in the first place to try to win singles titles, nothing is quite as satisfying.
If he gets back to full fitness — and nobody can be certain of that yet — I have seen nothing in the recent months to suggest he will not make it back to the top 10. I doubt he has either. If he saw players in their 20s taking over the game he might be worried, but watching his old rivals succeed will, I am sure, be a big motivation for the hard work he has planned before trying to make a full comeback.
A GAME IN GOOD SHAPE
People in tennis inevitably worry about what will happen when some of these superstars leave the stage and that is fair enough. But in my view they will do so leaving the game in better shape than it has ever been.
I work for broadcasters across Europe, Australia and America and I honestly sense that tennis is bigger than I have known it. My own experience is that people who are not directly involved in the sport want to talk to me about it and ask questions more than they ever have.
Something I have enjoyed about this Wimbledon is that there seems to have been less wasted time than in other recent Grand Slams, the matches have gone quicker and there seem to have been fewer things like toilet breaks.
When the icons of tennis finally depart, they will leave the game in a better place than ever
I would like to see Wimbledon go further and introduce the 25-second shot clock as in other places. Apart from anything it would show that players like Rafa Nadal are actually playing within the limit, as they should be. I am not such a fan of the 12-12 tiebreak, although it was barely needed. I always felt it was a bit of an over-reaction to one match (last year’s men’s semi-final) and it is never wise to base a decision on a one-off.
But these are not enormous issues. Apart from the desire to see some new superstars emerging, my sense is that there is not too much you can do to improve Wimbledon.
What amazes me above all about the dominance of the thirtysomethings is their appetite.
AGEING LIKE A FINE WINE
When you have champagne and caviar every day the appeal of it can wane, but that is what these people are doing. Somehow they still stay motivated to sustain this quality year after year. I got to 32 and felt I was done, although the likes of myself and Mats Wilander were winning Grand Slams at 17.
You do not see that now so the age range has shifted up, although Rafa Nadal won his first French title just short of his 20th birthday.
You might think that winning eight or nine Majors would start to affect the big three’s motivation, but there seems no end to it. As I’ve mentioned before, it is disappointing that the best young players are not stepping up as you would expect, but we have to marvel at this older generation while we can.
GO WITH THE FLOW JO
I tend to identify with the players in any issues that arise between them and journalists. I am sure that with hindsight Jo Konta might have responded differently to some probing questions, but there is not much time for hindsight when you come in and still feel raw and frustrated from a disappointing loss.
I’m sure with hindsight Jo Konta might have responded differently to some probing questions
It took me some time before I got to grips with this part of the job. The turning point for me was when I made my ‘nobody died, I just lost a tennis match’ comment at Wimbledon when losing in the second round after winning the title twice. For some reason I felt more comfortable after that.
I think the reporter was within his rights to ask the questions and, while it can be more difficult than a team sport, I think it would help Jo if she can take a slightly more relaxed attitude to this side of her career.
When I look at her tennis I think Jo is good enough to be among the top players, and she should accept the sort of responsibilities that come with that.
BORIS WAS TALKING TO MIKE DICKSON