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Serena Williams feeling 'relaxed' ahead of U.S. Open title defense

MASON, Ohio -- Serena Williams says her summer preparation has boosted her confidence as she prepares to defend her U.S. Open title in two weeks. Serena, who is the top seed at this week's Western & Southern Open, said her Bank of the West title and run to the Rogers Cup semifinals last week, where she lost to her sister Venus in three sets, have left her feeling relaxed heading into the final Grand Slam of the season.

"Definitely feeling better and just more relaxed in general," she said.

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Serena has yet to make the quarterfinals of a major this year, and she's just one Grand Slam title away from tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 major singles titles and move into second on the list of Slam wins in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf.

With her long and storied resume of milestones and accomplishments, Serena insists she has nothing to prove. She rejected the suggestion that her claims of feeling no pressure going into the U.S. Open were a mental trick to keep her calm. But she also says she's been trying to be easier on herself and maintain a positive perspective on her season and career.

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"It just got to be too much," she said, referring to her negativity. "So I was just like, let it go. So now it's more about being more positive."

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After a second-round loss at the French Open and third-round loss at Wimbledon, Serena has won seven of her last eight matches on hard courts, all played in the last two weeks. She considers her preparation a success.

"It was good for me," Serena said. "I played a lot of matches. I lost to a good player that day [in the Montreal semifinals]. I made it far and played three hours, and then was fine the next day. So those are all super positive things. I haven't played a lot of matches back-to-back this year, so it was nice to get my body used to that again."

For the second straight week, Serena will open her tournament against Sam Stosur. She routed the Aussie 6-0, 6-2 in Montreal.