Serena Williams is gearing up for the final tournament of her tennis career, and she has turned to an Australian legend in the hopes of going out on a high.
Earlier this month, the 23-time grand slam champion announced she would retire after the US Open, which gets underway later this week.
But her farewell tour on the US hardcourt swing has been anything but a fairytale.
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Williams teared up after losing to Belinda Bencic in straight sets, before she was completely outclassed by reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu at the Cincinnati Masters.
Now the 40-year-old has enlisted the services of Australian great Rennae Stubbs as she aims to produce an improved performance in her last ever appearance at a grand slam.
Williams was having a hit on New York’s Arthur Ashe Stadium with World No. 3 Maria Sakkari and eagle-eyed fans were quick to notice Stubbs standing behind the baseline.
The tennis world said the sight of Stubbs in Williams’ camp was a sign she was taking her final tournament extremely seriously.
Stubbs, a former doubles champion who won six grand slam titles, was watching intently and offered Williams some words of advice during the practice session.
Prior to Wimbledon this year, Williams parted ways with longtime mentor Patrick Mouratoglou, who is now coaching former World No. 1 Simona Halep.
Stubbs, who is now based in the US as a tennis commentator/analyst, has previously advised the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Sam Stosur.
Teaming up with Stubbs could see Williams adopt a more aggressive playing style at the US Open.
The Aussie has reportedly encouraged her to play practice sets against top level opponents in an effort to sharpen up her match play.
Williams looked rusty in her matches against Bencic and Raducanu but appeared to be moving more freely during the training session.
New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey tweeted: “Watched Serena warm up for her match/loss to Raducanu in Cincinnati and she barely moved, much less ran like this.
“Looks fired up and the tape on her left leg is gone as well.”
The American tennis icon is one short of Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles and one last major crown at Flushing Meadows would be a fairytale finish to her career.
In her retirement announcement, Williams hinted she was frustrated she hasn’t been able to catch up to and surpass Court’s all-time tally.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” Williams wrote in a piece for Vogue Magazine.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through post-partum depression.
“But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”