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Serena seeks to end year on a high note

NEW YORK (AFP) – Serena Wil­liams, riding an emotional rollercoaster as she adapts to juggling tennis and motherhood, seeks to end 2018 on a high with a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open.

The US great counts six US Open victories among her 23 Slams and with one more would match Austra­lian Margaret Court’s record for most major singles titles.

She could also join Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters as the only mothers to win Grand Slam singles titles, but since an impres­sive run to the Wimbledon final – where she fell to Angelique Kerber – Williams has endured a lackluster buildup to the hardcourt showpiece in Flushing Meadows.

‘’I’m still at the very beginning, this is a long comeback,’’ she defiantly told reporters after a second-round loss to Petra Kvitova – winner of five titles this year – in Cincinnati.

She had shrugged off an even bigger disappointment two weeks earlier – a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Johanna Konta in San Jose that was the most lopsided defeat of her career.

Williams later revealed she had learned shortly before that match that the man convicted of killing her sister Yetunde Price in 2003 had been released on parole, something she ‘’couldn’t shake out of her mind’’.

It was another instance of personal matters intruding on the tennis court in a way they never have before, with Williams opening up about her struggles with post-partum emotions since the birth of daughter Olympia last September, and wrestled with feelings of inadequacy that many new mothers experience.

‘’I have been through a lot of stuff in my life, but I have never been through this,’’ Williams said.

And then there’s her game, worry­ingly inconsistent in six tournaments so far this year – including the French Open where she withdrew before the fourth round with a pectoral injury.

‘’Basically, my whole game needs to improve,’’ Williams said, although she wasn’t stepping up the pressure on herself in her last chance to avoid her first season since 2011 without a Grand Slam singles title.