Is it the beginning of the end for Serena Williams?
Three shots at glory—a 22nd Slam—all gone a-begging.
The US Open last year would have made it a genuine Grand Slam—all four big guns in a calendar year.
It was not to be.
And the next two Slam finals have only seen Serena fall by the wayside to her younger opponents—German Angelique Kerber and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.
American tennis is on the wane and Serena—their last bastion—is losing her glitter too.
Yes, Serena is not getting any younger. She’s 34—and she’s treading the path that Roger Federer has over the last four years—still competitive but not a real contender.
At least, Federer had the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka to reckon with.
Williams has no such excuse. She’s still No.1 and she’s expected to dominate her younger opponents.
Is it a mental thing? Is there some fragility , some frailty, not apparent earlier?
It would appear so—every opponent now has the belief that on their day, they can bring the 21-time champion to ground level from her previous stratospheric heights.
Are we being too harsh, too critical already?
Most top 10 women players would give an arm and a limb to have the same kind of results Serena has achieved in the past three Slams.
Yes, Serena’s vulnerable but there’s also a possibility that she can snatch a bigger slice of history once Wimbledon begins in another three weeks.
Lush green grass will tell.
Who is Kiki Bertens?
Sure, she’s that unseeded Dutchwoman who’s reeled off 12 wins in a row over the past two weeks to make the semi-finals of the French Open.
She now faces top seed Serena Williams this afternoon.
We all know that—now.
But where was this wonder-woman prior to this?
What’s her record?
Her best result in a Grand Slam was at the 2014 French Open—again—where she made the fourth round as a qualifier.
It’s on clay that Bertens has really shined—taking a liking to the surface and clinching two WTA singles titles.
That explains a lot.
What’s her head-to-head record against the other three semi-finalists?
Bertens has played Samantha Stosur and Williams just once—losing to them in the Slams—the French Open and the US Open respectively.
She has a much more formidable record against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza holding a 3-0 lead. But these wins were aeons ago—the last one coming in 2014.
But her performances at Roland Garros so far have been stellar.
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, Daria Kasatkina , fifteenth seed Madison Keys and eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky.
Can it get better than that?
It surely can.
Maybe Williams will have an off day.
It won’t be easy. Bertens is carrying a left-calf injury.
And then, we could have a new French Open women’s champion.
Stosur, Muguruza, Bertens.
Take your pick.
Muguruza’s been close before losing last year’s Wimbledon final.
Stosur has the US Open to her credit and has made a French Open final before falling to Francesca Schiavone.
It’s all good for women’s tennis—the more competitive the better.
But the news story of the year , of course, would be Bertens doing a mini-Leicester.
Can she? Will she?
Your guess is as good as mine.
What he said:
“It’s much easier for the wolf that is going uphill and running up the mountain—not easier, but he was hungrier than the wolf standing on the hill.”
Novak Djokovic savoured his 11th major and sixth Australian Open overall with a meaty metaphor.
Comparing himself to a wild canine on top of the mountain, he said that he could not relax as his competitors were wolves too and hungrier.
“You can observe it from different sides, but, I believe that all the guys that are out there fighting each week to get to No. 1 are very hungry to get to No. 1, and I know that. I can’t allow myself to relax and enjoy. Of course I want to enjoy, and I will, but it’s not going to go more than few days. After that I’m already thinking about how can I continue on playing well throughout the rest of the season each tournament.
Kind of a mindset that one needs to have if one wants to stay up there. Because I think you need to work double as hard when you’re up there.
I believe that I can win every match I play (and) I’m playing the tennis of my life in the last 15 months. The results are showing that.
But you can get a very big slap from karma. I don’t want that.”
The Djoker rounded off his reverie by assuring his listeners that he was ravenous to clinch his first French Open.
“Very hungry. But the wolf needs to eat a lot of different meals to get to Paris. Paris is a dessert.”
What he really meant:
“It takes more to stay at the top than to get there.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“What a wolf-pack we male tennis players are. Woo-hoo, Woo-hoo! Ready or not, here we come! Call me Wolverine!”
I thought I was going to be writing an article on whether Career Grand Slams have become de rigueur in the current age of tennis or we are blessed to have three to four outstanding players converge on the sport in the same era.
It was not to be.
Stanislas Wawrinka (va-vreeng-kah) had other thoughts.
The Swiss No. 2 (he’ll probably be No. 1 this week) defeated the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets on a Sunday afternoon in Paris.
He is no longer a one-Slam wonder.
Aficionados might have cribbed that his first Slam, the Australian Open in 2014, was handed him on a platter. A favourable draw and an injured Nadal were the variables that worked to his advantage.
But very few can begrudge him his second Slam. Djokovic may not have had enough time to recover from a grueling semi-final. But the Swiss had to fight hard to get to the finals, ousting his idol Federer on the way.
Wawrinka recently ended his marriage to Swiss TV presenter Ilham Vuilloud.
“We have enjoyed ten fulfilling years, with all the ups and downs that every couple experiences, but sometimes life is more challenging than one would hope.
Ilham and I were both blessed to create a family when our wonderful daughter Alexia was born in 2010. We have always tried to live our lives as a team and as a family, despite the challenges we have faced due to the demands of my career. To my great regret this isn’t possible anymore.
Ilham will always be the mother of my daughter and a person that I have a lot of love and respect for. We will always remain as a family. Now my priority is to do everything to protect Alexia during these challenging times.
I hope that the fans and the media will understand that I’ve always been very protective of my private life and wish to continue to do so not giving any further information about the situation.”
Nice guys do not have to always finish last.
IPL 2015 is finished, over, done with. The champions have been crowned. The champions are Mumbai Indians.
Three teams have now won the IPL twice. Chennai Superkings (of course), Kolkata Knightriders and Mumbai Indians. The other winners are Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers (now defunct).
Is Rohit Sharma, on the basis of IPL results, a better skipper than Virat Kohli? Has captaincy led to a new-found maturity in the cavalier—yet immensely talented—Mumbai batter? Is Sharma a better candidate to lead the Indian Test side?
Recall that Saurav Ganguly was appointed skipper only after Sachin Tendulkar refused the crown of thorns for the second (and final) time. The rest, as they say, is history.
Meanwhile, the French Open beckons with a tantalising glimpse of possibly history in the making.
Can Novak Djokovic become only the fourth man in the Open era to claim a career Grand Slam?
For once, Nadal does not ride into Paris as the overwhelming favourite on his favoured surface—clay.
The Mallorcan has feet of (well, you said it, not me) clay.
In the women’s draw, the top two contenders are Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Both have claimed career Grand Slams and Sharapova—interestingly—has two French Open titles; it is her least liked surface.
(My cable operator is not televising the French Open; it is not among the default options offered. So I guess I’ll be following it mainly via the net or the print media.)
What she said:
“I was shocked. I thought at least, you know, I would get a face to face or something. But there was nothing. It was just a phone call and I did not hear from him again.”
Caroline Wozniacki reveals the back-story behind her sudden break-up with Northern Irish golfer Rory McIllroy. The nuptials were called off by the golfer ending a three-year relationship.
The luscious Dane said:
“It was very hard because he made it very public from the start. He put out a press release so I didn’t have a choice, you know, it just got put in my face.
I was shocked. I thought at least, you know, I would get a face to face or something. But there was nothing. It was just a phone call and I did not hear from him again.
I don’t think you expect to find yourself in a situation like that, you can’t prepare yourself or your body for anything like that so I think I was in a bit of a shocked phase there for a while.”
Wozniacki has since moved on and poked fun at her former boyfriend’s lack of inches.
“I went to Miami after the French Open and Serena was there and we had a great time. I came back from that and I felt refreshed, I felt like a new self.
I started practising towards Wimbledon and I was playing well. I think you just have to take life as it goes and I believe you never get things put on you that you can’t handle. I’m definitely on the other side now — I’ve moved on.
I think it is very important to have a life off the court and to me it wasn’t that hard to balance tennis and a relationship.
I would like a taller guy so I can wear my heels. Someone who is fun to be around who doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
McIllroy broke off the engagement claiming:
“The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realise that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.”
The ace golfer has since won two Slams while his ex-partner made only her second ever Grand Slam final at the US Open last week.
What Wozniacki really meant:
“Hell, I was supposed to be married and you pulled the rug from under me. You’re a rug rat.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“Well, at least, he didn’t post it on Facebook, direct message me on Twitter or IM me , well, anywhere.”
What she said:
"Women cannot have the same mentality of men, who expect to win every competition."
Li Na is inventive with her excuse for not doing well post her Roland Garros triumph this year. The Chinese woman became the first Asian ever to win a Grand Slam at the French Open.
What she really meant:
“Sports requires us (women) to be takers. But we’re givers (by nature)—just ask my hubby and my opponents.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Serena Williams are more than pleased with this explanation.”
The No.1 seed had an answer for everything the Mallorcan threw at him—from his top-spin forehands, ripped backhands, deceptive serves and breaks of service.
If Nadal would break the Djoker’s service, Djokovic would come roaring right back with his incisive return of serve. The Spaniard was outlasted, out-rallied and outplayed by the Serb on his own terms—from the baseline.
The US Open is his fourth major and leaves only the French Open to complete a career Slam.
Serena dropped nary a set on her route to the final. Stosur, on the other hand, let many an opportunity to close matches early slip through her nervous fingers.
However, it was the Australian, much like Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon against Maria Sharapova, who exhibited nerveless character in the role of underdog. She was calm, composed and assured in her demolition of the 13-time Grand Slam champion.
"Because after they beat you, they think, ‘Oh, I beat a Grand Slam champion.’"
Chinese tennis star, Li Na, reacts after her opener loss to Romanian teenager, Simona Halep. The French Open champion has struggled in the latter part of the season. Na lost 2-6, 5-7 in straight sets, her second successive exit in the first round at the tournament.
"Before the match, I talked to my coach. I said I didn’t have good timing to hit the ball. He told me everything is perfect, everything is fantastic.”
"I say, ‘Yes, everything is fantastic, but I always lose first round.’
"This is not fantastic. I think we need to change something. I think maybe the coach just tried to give me confidence, but I don’t think I got it."
What she really meant:
“I’m a treasured scalp—a trophy in itself.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“If they lose to you, they think, ‘Oh, it’s OK, I lost to a Grand Slam champion.’”