At Wimbledon 2018, upon being told by a reporter that Madison Keys had said that it must be tough to be Serena because everyone always plays their best against her, Serena offered this elucidating response, clarifying the kind of pressure that she faces in every single match:
“I’m glad someone admitted that. Of course Madison does. She’s just so smart and so on it, but yeah, every single match I play, whether I’m coming back from a baby or a surgery or it doesn’t matter, these young ladies bring a game that I’ve never seen before. It’s interesting because I don’t even scout as much because when I watch them play is a totally different game than when they play me. It’s what makes me great. I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater.”
Of all the cumulative sources of pressure affecting Serena during that match against Osaka, I believe that one of the unacknowledged sources was the courtside presence of Sascha Bajin, her former hitting partner, coach, and confidant. I cannot imagine the pressure that Serena must have felt knowing that seated close by was the man who, for eight years came to know her game the best, and who, for the second time, had coached a young woman in the tactics of beating her.