Serena Williams isn’t going anywhere yet
Several times in her illustrious career, tennis powerhouse Serena Williams has been written off and declared to have lost her focus on the sport. Being the great champion (with 13 grand slam singles titles) that she is, she has always managed to shut her detractors up by letting her game do the talking.
But the question that now arises is, for how long?
Being an avid follower of miss Williams, I hear several snide remarks. Some directed at her unorthodox appearance which, honestly speaking, do not even deserve a reply.
While others, the relatively smarter ones, attempt to deride her fiery temper and occasionally unprofessional attitude.
True, she may not be the embodiment of pristine model behaviour like perhaps her on-court rival Kim Clijsters. I am not going to defend her behaviour but nobody is perfect, right?
What sets Serena apart is the spirit of a true fighter who never quits even in the most trying times. Every single player on the women’s circuit knows that a match against Serena is never over until the last point. Show the slightest signs of slacking and she will bounce back, usually producing her best tennis when under pressure.
Just last month, Williams was handed over the “Best Female Tennis Player ESPY Award” at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. In all honesty, even my neighbourhood aunty deserved this award more than Williams since the former actually played tennis this year while Williams was off healing numerous injuries (another issue that has constantly plagued her career).
Her big comeback tournament this year, Wimbledon 2011, ended in a fourth round defeat to the 9th seed Marion Bartoli. Expectations were of course not too high from the defending champion Serena due to her prolonged absence from the courts. But her grand slam patterns are far from ordinary, aren’t they? Known to always take her game up a few notches at grand slams, some of Williams’ victories at grand slams have come when she was completely down and out; most notably her 2007.
Australian Open laurel when an out-of-form 81st ranked Williams managed to demolish every opponent with ease, including the then world number one Maria Sharapova. Hence, her early (by her standards) exit from Wimbledon did leave people wondering if she still has it in her. After all, there comes a time when age catches up with everyone and not even Serena Williams is immune to that.
This past week, with a miserly ranking of 169 and a heavy burden on her shoulders, Serena entered the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford with a strong agenda. To prove her mettle, to answer her fans who have loyally stuck to her through thick and thin and to some extent, show that the ESPY jury was not playing a prank last month. Fittingly enough, she not only won the tournament, but also avenged Bartoli for the Wimbledon defeat by winning the final against her in straight sets on Sunday. While victory at this small tournament doesn’t really mean much on paper, but for me (call me an optimist if you will), this moment right here might just be the beginning of another Serena phase with a possible ascent to the coveted no.1 ranking she has grown accustomed to.
Before the sceptics start accusing me of generalising too much from just one contest, let me just prove my point here while you sit back and perhaps sharpen your knives. Having followed Williams closely this tournament, I can see the spark that used to strike fear in the eyes of her competitors.
She looked fitter, was hitting the balls cleanly and was even (rather shockingly) being more cordial than ever before.
What this shows is a sense of confidence brooding inside her and it is this very confidence that leads me to my conclusion. There’s a rusty Serena, a Serena that people have a shot at defeating; and there’s a let-me-show-you-how-it’s-done Serena, a Serena that people can only remain in awe of as she goes from grand slam to grand slam grabbing trophy after trophy. The latter has never been a regular feature on the tennis circuit by any means, but whenever it comes out, it sure is one hell of a sight to watch on court.
I sense the coming of another phase of domination in Williams’ career. Her year-long break from tennis finally seems to be paying off as she rears to go all-out and has announced participate in several upcoming hard court tournaments (unlike previous years where she focused only on the biggies) this summer before competing for the large prize, the US Open. And while the tennis world is rife with speculation that the Williams sisters are finally on their way to a permanent downfall, I beg to differ.
Yes, there comes a time when age catches up with everyone and not even Serena Williams is immune to that.
But one thing that she can surely do is . . . delay it!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.