As soon as Serena Williams claimed her second Grand Slam victory of the year in Roland Garros speculation of a calendar sweep of all the majors began to gather.
With it came scrutiny of each and every of the American’s performances; could she really reach the level of form needed to grab all four Grand Slams in one year?
Williams’ epic battle with Heather Watson at Wimbledon served as a glimpse of the pressure she was putting on herself. During that match the 33-year-old appeared fragile and sickingly nervous at the thought of losing her chance at both a “Serena Slam” and Calendar Grand Slam.
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However, Williams seemed to find the strength from somewhere to claw her way back from a double break down in the third set to clasp victory, and go on to become the 2015 Wimbledon champion.
Now though the dream is over. Williams’ run finally came to a halt against Roberta Vinci at the US Open - Vinci just a year her junior and playing in her maiden Grand Slam semi-final. After dominating the first set, the thought of a chance to clinch all four titles and match Steffi Graf’s grand slam record on her home turf became all too much for the American.
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Williams characteristically swatted away any suggestion that her Friday demise - after 26 Grand Slam match wins this year and 33 dating to Wimbledon last season - was due to expectation of the moment.
"I told you guys I don't feel pressure," a tired Williams told reporters in a news conference.
"I never felt pressure. … I never felt that pressure to win here. I said that from the beginning."
Vinci herself admitted she could see that Williams was physically feeling the pressure of the enormity of the achievement hanging over her:
" (In) my mind, I say, 'Think about this, she's nervous,'" a smiling Vinci said. "So I tried to keep fighting for every single point."
In the third set against Vinci, Williams appeared lost and at times confounded. She barked at herself at one moment, the next, she was quieting herself - palm towards the ground - trying to stay calm.
Ultimately, the pressure finally got to Serena Williams and killed her Grand Slam dream
Serena’s coach also weighed on the post-match analysis:
"Every loss is difficult," Mouratoglou said.
"I think she lost her way mentally. Tactically she didn't know what to do. When you make the wrong choices, you lose the points you're supposed to win and then you make more and more wrong choices. She lost her way on the path tactically."
Williams will certainly get more chances to add to her Grand Slam tally, particularly with the weight of history off her back. But surely, in the twilight of her career, the possibility of ever achieving a calendar Grand Slam was crushed on Friday for Serena Williams.
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