It’s the 1st of May everybody! Happy Worker’s Day! To my fellow workers who put in the hard yards each and every day to make ends meet, while making society a better place for everyone, thank you. I do hope you are enjoying your day and I decided to write about a topic that has been gnawing at the back of my mind for a while now. So kick back and enjoy the read.
Tennis is a beautiful sport. I know Futball is called the beautiful game but one could argue that tennis is just as beautiful a sport. Both beauties are predicated not just on the mechanics of the game, or the passion they ignite in their respective fans – mind you most tennis fans like myself, are futball fans – but also on their unpredictability. Let’s touch on Football – I believe my previous spelling has made the desired distinction – for a second. Hands up if you would have put your money on Leicester City being this close to winning the English Premiership, at the start of the season. Anyone? No? It is indeed a beautiful game. Alright let’s head back to tennis and try another one. Hands up if you would have bet in August 2015, that Serena Williams would go on an eight month title drought from her last title in Cincinnati, till now. Tennis is indeed a beautiful game too.
Last year, Serena Williams was on top of the tennis world both literally and figuratively. She had practically willed and pulverized herself to within two matches of tennis immortality by winning the calendar year slam. Then, Roberta Vinci happened. Coming into the match, no other WTA player had found a way to stop Serena Williams at a grand slam all year, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. She had been pushed to the brink on a number of occasions, but she always dug deep and found that little extra bit of Serena, that the other players just didn’t have. Roberta came out to prove that she didn’t need the Serena element, she had Vinci. In a masterful display of disruptive tennis, Roberta Vinci sliced and diced the great SW out of rhythm and cruelly carved away her hold onto the Slam dream. Her biting backhand slices, juxtaposed with her flat forehands and her staccato use of angles, all had a jarring effect on Serena. It was tough to watch, but in hindsight, there was no other way to bring down the queen. Going toe to toe with Serena on any court is usually suicide, even for the most powerful of WTA players and Vinci knew it. Her alternative game plan, her gamble, worked like a charm.
The defeat itself was not what struck a deep blow. It was when it happened. Like I said, Serena was within two matches of tennis immortality – by her standards. It was clear she wanted this calendar slam. She had dug deeper than she ever had to stay in contention, all year long. What we may not have known at the time, was that she just might have been squeezing out the last drops of tennis will she had. The defeat to Vinci effectively ended Serena’s 2015 season, as she pulled out of the last two WTA tournaments of the year. It was the ultimate anti-climatic ending. It also seems to have started a trend of vulnerability. Since then, Serena has gone 0 – 3 in her last three tournaments, twice losing in the finals. One of those, was at the Australian Open, to first time finalist, Angelique Kerber. It is not just the losses that have been puzzling, but the repeated health withdrawals since the Vinci loss. As stated earlier, she withdrew from the China Open and WTA finals. Elbow and knee injuries were cited as the reasons for those withdrawals. Now she has withdrawn from Madrid, citing a flu.
At this point, the question needs to be asked: Did Roberta Vinci carve out the champions heart from Serena Williams in that semifinal match? It is obvious she hasn’t been the same player since. The scarier proposition is that she looks like a player who is going through the inevitable motions of retirement. I understand that the last notion might be a bit presumptuous but as fans of the beautiful game, we must be prepared for the unexpected. Serena has a lot to prove in the next couple of weeks, leading up to the French Open. Just don’t be surprised if she wakes up one morning and decides she has nothing left to prove anymore.
P.S: As for Roberta Vinci, like an assassin of the night, she has flown relatively under the radar since then. She posted a rather feeble third round showing at Australia this year. Call her the final element in the perfect storm that denied Serena a most sought after prize.