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Pumped-up Murray eyes US Open, Serena shoulders burden of history

 Agencies |  2016-08-29 23:06:37.0  |  New York

Pumped-up Murray eyes US Open, Serena shoulders burden of history

Andy Murray admits he’s playing his best ever tennis as he looks to capitalise on the growing frailties of his rivals and capture a second US Open title.

Ahead of Monday’s start to the season’s final Grand Slam, the 29-year-old is the sport’s man of the moment.

On the other hand, Serena Williams once again arrives at Flushing Meadows poised to rewrite the tennis record books — if her own troublesome right shoulder and increasingly emboldened rivals allow.

The 34-year-old US superstar matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles with her triumph at Wimbledon in July. With a seventh US Open triumph she can break Graf’s record, and continue her march toward Australian Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam titles. She could also break Graf’s record of 186 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings, and surpass Chris Evert for most US Open singles titles won in the Open Era.

But after seeing a frustrating year go by between her 21st Grand Slam win and No. 22, Williams said she’d learned to let history take care of itself.

“At this point, I’m taking it a day at a time,” Williams said. “I just am more relaxed, for sure.”

A straight-sets win over Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final may have eased some of the pressure Williams was feeling, but it’s been far from smooth sailing since. Her bid to retain her Olympic singles title ended in Rio de Janeiro when she was sent crashing out of the third round by Elina Svitolina.

Williams faces a tricky opening encounter against experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova. She could find fifth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep waiting in the quarters and elder sister Venus, the sixth seed, in the semis.

Constrastingly, Andy Murray is having rosy time at the tennis court.

Since losing the French Open final to Novak Djokovic in June, Murray has won Queen’s Club, a second Wimbledon title and successfully defended his Olympic crown in Rio. His career-best 22-match win streak came to a halt at the hands of Marin Cilic in the Cincinnati final last weekend when he simply ran out of gas.

But that hasn’t dented his confidence that he can claim a second US Open, four years after his breakthrough in New York saw him become the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam title.

At 29, three-time major winner Murray admits he is taking positives from being in the twilight of his career. “You have to make the most of every opportunity. It’s a slightly different mentality to maybe when you’re younger and you feel like you have a bit more time on your side,” said Murray.

Murray has played in all of the first three finals of the majors in 2016, losing to world number one Djokovic in Melbourne and Paris before defeating Milos Raonic in straight sets in the Wimbledon final.

The only worry for Murray is his relatively mediocre recent record in New York — runs to the quarter-finals in 2013 and 2014 were followed by a fourth-round exit to Kevin Anderson 12 months ago.

Murray starts his campaign against fiery Lukas Rosol. The last time they met in Munich in 2015, the Scot described the Czech as the most-hated man in the sport.

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