Single-minded Serena Williams claims to be feeling an unusual sense of calm ahead of her latest shot at sporting history.
Williams is one tantalising win away from securing a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown after breezing past Barbora Strycova in less than an hour to move into her 11th Wimbledon final.
The seven-times champion will play fellow former world number one Simona Halep for the title on Saturday after casting aside unseeded Strycova 6-1 6-2 in a 59-minute semi-final mismatch.
Already the oldest grand slam champion in the open era, Williams is now also the oldest woman to make a major final.
Turning 38 in September, Williams is 33 days older than nine-times All England Club champion Martina Navratilova was when the Czech-born American qualified for her 12th decider in 1994.
“It definitely feels good to be back in the final, especially after my year,” said Williams, who only played 12 matches during an injury-ravaged 2019 season before arriving in London.
“I just needed some matches and every match I know I keep improving.
“Now I’m feeling good, I can do what I do best, and that’s play tennis.”
Despite her advancing years, Williams is outwardly showing no signs of slowing down in her obsessive pursuit of Margaret Court’s 24 slams, a magical mark that has stood for 46 years.
But inside, she says, Williams isn’t feeling the same pressures as she did before losing last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals to Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka respectively with Court’s record also within touching distance.
“Looking back, to even be in those two finals last year was unbelievable,” she said.
“Now I’m in a different place. Like I just am more calm. Instead of having nothing to lose, I feel like I have things to lose, but I also have nothing to lose. It’s like I’m in the middle.
“I really want to do it. I’m in a different place because I wasn’t really playing a month ago, like, at all. So it’s all kind of coming together. I can’t really put how I’m taking it.
“I wake up every morning and I get to be fit, play in front of crowds. Not everyone can do that. I love what I do, it’s just a remarkable experience.”
Williams will be contesting her 32nd grand slam final in all.
As well as all the records she’s hunting, the ageless champion has the chance to follow Australian legends Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley and become only the third mother in half a century of professional tennis to win Wimbledon.
With Williams off the scene, Halep made the final at Melbourne Park the following year before finally shedding her tag as the game’s best player without a major at the 2018 French Open.
The Romanian credits that breakthrough in Paris for allowing her to play with newfound freedom and a “nothing to lose” attitude against hot favourite Williams.
The seventh-seeded Halep advanced to her maiden Wimbledon final with an equally impressive 6-1 6-3 win over world number eight Elina Svitolina in Thursday’s first semi-final.