23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams' comeback to tennis since the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia hasn't gone exactly to plan. While the American has reached four Grand Slams finals in two years, which is a remarkable feat for a 38-year-old, she has lost all four - thus raising doubts about whether she can equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Slams.
Now with the coronavirus outbreak bringing the tennis world to a grinding halt, the doubts have intensified even further. The Wimbledon Championships, where Serena Williams has made it to the summit clash the last two years, stands cancelled for this year. The French Open has been postponed to September, and a lot of uncertainty is hovering over the hosting of the US Open.
The next time Serena Williams plays a Slam, she could well be closing in on 40. And many experts fear that with age not on her side, Serena's long-standing dream of winning 24 Majors might remain just that: a dream.
But Boris Becker, a former World No. 1 and six-time Slam champion himself, thinks otherwise. He is convinced that as long as the 2012 Olympic singles gold medalist has the burning desire inside her, she stands a chance of lifting her 24th Grand Slam trophy.
Calling her the greatest of all time in his interview with Laureus.com, Becker noted that Serena Williams will always be a contender at any Slam she plays. And if she gets a chance to play the US Open this year, she will be a force to reckon with.
“Can Serena equal Margaret Court? She is past 30 and she’s become a proud mother," Becker said. "I'm sure she would love to play the US Open this year. They call her the Greatest of all Time on the women's circuit, and she certainly deserves the title."
Even though as a German he will always have a special place for 22-time Major winner Steffi Graf, Becker had no qualms in acknowledging Serena's unrivaled greatness. The 52-year-old also pointed out that Margaret Court's place at the top of the pile might be a little misleading, given she had the advantage of playing a majority of her Slams on her favorite surface.
“Me, being German, I still think of Steffi Graf as our queen, but Serena is certainly, certainly the greatest," Becker said. "Margaret Court is the most successful. Having said that, back in the day they played three of the four Majors on grass, so it was easier if you're comfortable on grass to win more."
Serena Williams is a role model for mothers: Becker
Having come back to the sport at the top level after her maternity break, Serena Williams has shown women all over the world that balancing motherhood with professional sport is very much possible. Her quest for excellence and her hunger for success remain as high as ever, even at the age of 38.
According to Becker, it is Serena's staunch determination that will finally help the seven-time Wimbledon champion get the elusive 24th Slam.
“I'm sure Serena wants to reach 24, I think that's the reason she's playing," Becker said. "You know, she’s a role model for all the mothers out there who are professionally involved in sport. As long as she wants to play, I think she can win. So as long as Serena is good enough to reach a final, she's good enough to win."
Youngsters might make it tough for Serena Williams: Becker
Becker also cautioned that it won't be all smooth sailing for Serena Williams when tennis finally resumes post the coronavirus-enforced lockdown. The younger generation is fast catching up with her, as evidenced by the wins of Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open and Bianca Andreescu the following year.
Both showed tons of self-belief and admirable poise in their respective maiden Grand Slam final to deny Serena the title. With a hungry and talented young bunch coming up on the WTA tour over the last couple of years, it might get even harder now for Serena to stop them.
“Having said that, the young generation won't sleep," Becker said. "You know once you are in a final you're not playing the name, you're playing the title. That was Bianca Andreescu at the US Open final or Simona Halep in Wimbledon last year. They didn’t play the name.”