Serena Williams’ bid to finally land a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title may be boosted by the lack of fans at the US Open, says former world number three Pam Shriver.
Serena, 38-year-old has lost her past four major finals when aiming to tie the record set by Margaret Court in 1973.
She lost the past two US Open finals to Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu.
“Without the crowds there, I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually feels a little less pressure,” said Shriver.
Serena, ranked ninth in the world, will be among the favourites to win in New York when the first Grand Slam since the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic takes place from 31 August.
Six of the women’s top 10 players, including world number one Ashleigh Barty and reigning champion Andreescu, will not play because of safety and travel concerns.
“I don’t think it devalues the tournament,” said Shriver, who reached the US Open singles final in 1978 and won five doubles titles at Flushing Meadows.
“Anybody that comes through and wins seven rounds, under the circumstances of living in a quarantine bubble, unable to do the normal thing you usually do at a major, it is going to be an incredible performance.”
American great Serena is looking for her first major title since the birth of her daughter, Olympia, in 2017, when she said she nearly died because of a series of complications.
No player has won more than her six US Open titles in the modern era, although edgy performances in the 2018 and 2019 finals have stopped her moving clear of Chris Evert at Flushing Meadows and levelling Australian Court’s all-time tally.
Serena called umpire Carlos Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” in an angry outburst during the final against Osaka of Japan two years ago.
Last year, Serena labelled her performance against Canadian teenager Andreescu “inexcusable” as she looked a shadow of the player who had breezed through the previous rounds.
“Serena has felt a lot of emotions at the US Open through the years, hence many a meltdown,” said American Shriver, now a television analyst.
“This pandemic has really put a toll on a lot of people and a lot of people in your family, as far as how they’re feeling a lot more anxious.
“If you’ve been through a lot, as Serena has, she might actually feel more comfortable playing under these circumstances than other athletes.”