Serena Williams can ‘absolutely’ break Court’s Grand Slam record, says tennis legend Graf

Serena Williams won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Serena Williams can ‘absolutely’ break Court’s Grand Slam record, says tennis legend Graf

ZHUHAI, China: Tennis legend Steffi Graf said Sunday that Serena Williams can “absolutely” break Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles title record if she returns to tennis.
Former world number one Serena Williams, who gave birth earlier this year, has already overtaken Graf with 23 Grand Slam wins but is yet to surpass Court, who boasts 24 major titles.
“Absolutely, yes,” Graf said when asked if the record was within Williams’ reach.
Court is renowned as the most successful player in Grand Slam history — the only player to win 10 or more titles of a single Slam — lifting the Australian Open a staggering 11 times between 1960 and 1973.
Graf, who also has 22 Grand Slam singles titles under her belt and is famed for having spent 377 weeks ranked world number one, was speaking in Zhuhai, China, where she is ambassador for the WTA Elite Trophy tournament.
“A lot of it is determined on her drive and if that’s what she wants to do,” she said of Williams.
Australian Open organizers said in October they were hopeful of a stunning return by Williams in January as they raised the winners’ prize money to a bumper A$4 million.
Williams won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant, and she has spoken of her “outrageous” plans to play in Melbourne in 2018 — just four-and-a-half months after giving birth to her baby girl.
“It sounds from what I hear that she’s looking to come back to tennis,” Graf added.
“You know, everything that she has shown over her career just makes you believe that if she has that in her sights then she will go after it and achieve it.”
The $2 million Elite Trophy features 12 players ranked from around nine to 20.
This week saw US Open winner Sloane Stephens crash out of the tournament in the round robin stage after losing her first match to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova and retiring from her second to Czech Barbora Strycova after just five games.
America’s CoCo. Vandeweghe is set to face Germany’s Julia Goerges in the final on Sunday.


World Cup live: Portugal 1 Morocco 0

Updated 6 min 57 sec ago
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World Cup live: Portugal 1 Morocco 0

  • Cristiano Ronaldo heads in an early goal

4.16pm: SAVE! What a save that was from Patricio to prevent Younes Belhanda from finding the bottom corner with a header. that's as close as Morocco have come.

4.11pm: How long before Herve Renard sends for striker Ayoub El-Kaabi from the bench? He has 11 goals for his country and is the top-scorer in the squad. Morocco need one badly here.

4.07pm: Ronaldo may have scored the only goal but he had the third fewest touches in the first half. Only Mehdi Benatia (21) and Goncalo Guedes (19) had fewer.

4.05pm: We're back underway at the Luzhniki Stadium and Morocco need to score and avoid defeat otherwise they are out of the World Cup.

4.02pm: Random fact but Ronaldo has five hotels in Marrakech. He was certainly made to feel welcome by the Moroccons from that fifth-minute corner.

3.50pm: 37 percent of goals at this World Cup have been scored from set-pieces. 

3.46pm: "I think Morocco have dominated the ball," says BBC Sport's Kevin Kilbane. "Portugal have been dreadful."

3.45pm: It's half-time in Moscow and Portugal lead thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's fourth-minute header. 

3.42pm: Morocco's Mehdi Benatia is the first player to be booked. He is shown a yellow card for clattering into Cristiano Ronaldo.

3.37pm: Morocco are having a good go here. They've had 49 percent of the possesion and registered six shots to Portugal's four.

3.31pm

3.30pm: "There are worse teams than Morocco at the World Cup," said BBC Sport's Terry Butcher. "They may be 1-0 down and heading out of the World Cup, but there is plenty of confidence out there."

3.27pm

3.25pm: "Morocco should be pleased with how they have responded," said BBC Sport's Martin Keown. "They have not done an awful loy wrong apart from conceding that goal,"

3.21pm: Marking Ronaldo is a two-man job. Here Achraf Hakimi and Manuel Da Costa keep tabs on the Real Madrid superstar.

3.19pm: Goals are a big problem for Morocco. The only player who has more than ten international goals to his name is Ayoub El-Kaabi and he's on the bench.

3.15pm: "Morocco have got good variation from their corners," says BBC Sport's Martin Keown. 

3.12pm: Not content with scoring 44 goals in 44 games for Real Madrid this season, Ronaldo now has four in two World Cup games. He is a machine. 

3.08pm: "That is appalling marking by Morocco," said BBC Sport's Martin Keown. "You just can't give Ronaldo that amount of room."

3.06pm: GOAL. And it's Cristiano Ronaldo, who else? He steals a march from a corner and powers in a header. Worst possible start for Morocco.

3.04pm: A real positive start from Morocco. "What a start that was with 12-13 passes from Morocco," said BBC Sport pundit Terry Butcher. "Wonderful play. It all started with a ball up to Cristiano Ronaldo, who just shrugged his shoulders."

2.59pm: The size of the task facing Morocco this afternoon is demonstrated by the fact that Ronaldo has scored 33 goals in his last 23 games for club and country and has only failed to score in five of those games.

2.52pm: "The Moroccan fans are taking their seats and are already making a significant amount of noise," reports BBC Sport's Gary Flintoff. "They are dotted throughout the stadium, but there are thousands of them grouped together behind one of the goals."

2.45pm. "Ziyech is their playmaker and he's been instrumental at Ajax," said BBC Sport's Jermaine Jenas. "Technically, he's the one they need to be going through. He's got an eye for a pass and can glide past people. There are a lot of clubs looking at him. Morocco desperately need him today if they are to get anything out of the game."

2.42pm: Mexico '86 seems a long time but that is when these two last met at the World Cup. The Atlas Lions won that one 3-1. 

2.41pm: Cristiano Ronaldo needs just one goal to move outright second in the list of all-time international scorers.

2.39pm: Morocco's Mbark Boussoufa in the zone before the match at the Luzniki Stadium.

 

 

2.38pm: "It will be a different gamplan from Morocco," said BBC Sport's Kevin Kilbane. "They are going to have to play on the back foot."

2.35pm: "This Morocco side will feel they need to come out and produce a performance after their opening defeat," said BBC Sport's Jermaine Jenas. 

2.32pm: Morocco are chasing their first World Cup win since they beat Scotland 3-0 in France. Salaheddine Bassir (2) and Abdeljalil Hadda got the goals that day.

2.29pm: Cristiano Ronaldo is again partnered in attack by Goncalo Guedes, despite the Valencia forward's unimpressive form in a 3-3 draw with Spain. Joao Mario starts in midfield replacing Bruno Fernandes. 

2.28pm: Morocco coach Herve Renard has made three changes, with forward Khalid Boutaib replacing Ayoub El Kaabi, Manuel Da Costa coming in for Romain Saiss in central defense, and defender Nabil Dirar replacing winger Amine Harit.

2.14pm: Morocco need to bounce back from their agonising defeat against Iran but Portugal, and Ronaldo in particular, pose Herve Renard's men a monumental challenge at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
"We lost a battle but we haven't lost the war. We're not dead," said midfielder Faycal Fajr, one of 17 foreign-born players in Morocco's squad.

2.10pm: The surprise team news is that Nordin Amrabat has been passed fit for Morocco. He came off following a head injury against Iran and the feeling was he would not pass the concussion protocol.

2.09pm

It has not been the best World Cup so far for the Arab nations. Saudi Arabia were thrashed by Russia, Egypt lost late on to Uruguay, Morocco were floored by a sucker punch from Iran and then Egypt were beaten again, this time by Russia. But now Morocco have the chance to make up for that by pulling off the shock of all shocks against European champions Portugal. A win would go down as one of the biggest in their history and resuscitate their hopes of getting out of Group B. And you can follow our live coverage of the game at the Luzhniki Stadium right here, so stay tuned for our insight and opinion on events in Moscow.