Would you have believed it, dreamt it, envisioned it? Yet, we can savour it—the stuff of dreams, the embellishments of legends—another glorious chapter in the annals of tennis history.
A fitting ending to two momentous occasions—nostalgic yet novel.
An all-Williams final that culminated in Serena’s 23rd singles Grand Slam win and a Fedal encounter lasting a pulsating five sets that saw Federer reverse his hoodoo against his younger opponent Nadal equalling Jack Nicklaus’ golfing record of 18 Slams.
Roger ‘Tiger’ Federer, take a bow while Serena pirouettes with her trophy.
Vamos, Rafa, see you at Roland Garros, hopefully biting into the silverware.
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.
In 2014, it was Shamil Tarpsichev, the President of the Russian Tennis Federation , who set the blogosphere afire with his ill-advised comments about the Williams’ gender on national television.
This time, it’s Raymond Moore, the Indian Wells tournament director who put his foot into his mouth when he remarked thus:
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coat tails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
The South African is a former tennis player and helped establish the joint ATP-WTA tourney.
Moore compounded his folly further by speculating on the future of women’s tennis without Maria Sharapova.
He named Garbine Muguraza and Genie Bouchard as being both “physically attractive and competitively attractive” and that they “can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.”
Moore later apologised but not before a flurry of rejoinders and calls for his resignation from players, commentators and fans alike.
While these are the sort of comments that one can expect from arm-chair fans and critics of the game in the comfort of their homes , or even spectators in sports bars after the influence of a few drinks in rowdy company, it’s not becoming from the CEO of the tournament. He risks alienating women players and their fans.
Serena Williams responded:
“I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus, myself, a number of players — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister — I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.
I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways.
There’s only one way to interpret that. ‘Get on your knees,’ which is offensive enough, and ‘thank a man’? We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Patrick McEnroe was among those calling for Moore’s sacking.
Novak Djokovic, however, was his incorrigible self.
“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.
Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. I think as long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available and information, upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Knowing what they have to go through with their bodies — and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies — they have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff — we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about. Really, great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.”
Moore may have apologised and the brouhaha over his remarks will probably die down in a week or so. The average fan’s memory is short-lived.
The gender divide persists.
There exists parity in earnings between men and women at the Grand Slams and other joint tournaments like Indian Wells. Scoffers and skeptics may enquire whether women shouldn’t play five sets as well at the Slams.
Also, shouldn’t, as Djokovic points out, there be attempts to make the women’s game more interesting to the spectators? How many fans can testify to finding women’s matches as evenly matched as men’s?
Also, at the risk of sounding sexist, why shouldn’t the attractiveness of women players be a reason for drawing fans in? The modern men’s game has no real personalities.
Without one of the Big Four—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray, it’s relatively difficult to market a tourney to fans.
Is there no shred of truth in Moore’s remarks , misogynistic as they seem?
Does Serena Williams choke?
This must seem like a really stupid question given that Williams has 21 singles Grand Slam titles to her credit. She also has 13 doubles titles with her sister Venus.
Is this the hallmark of a choker?
I repeat the question: Is Serena a choker, that is, does she lose matches she was expected to win relatively easily?
This year’s loss to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-final is a case in point.
Serena had come into the year’s final Slam on the back of another Serena Slam.
Maria Sharapova was rendered hors-de-combat before the tournament qualifiers began.
This was her golden opportunity to go down in history as only the third woman in history to record a Calendar Grand Slam.
Alas, it was not to be.
Serena choked or at the very least appeared to.
She was not at her best, seemingly sluggish throughout the match. Her customary speed deserted her. Her Italian opponent was on song, storming back in the final two sets to make her first ever Grand Slam final.
To answer the question again, one has to check Williams’ record in Grand Slam tournaments.
What we need to know are the instances when Serena has lost in Grand Slams when she was doing well and expected to go all the way.
There are always giant-killers, there will always be giant-killers in any sport. That is the beauty and unpredictability of it. An underdog comes in and knocks out a fancied opponent. But it is rare that the unheralded player goes on to overcome every obstacle in his or her path. That kind of consistency is not to be suddenly expected from , say, a rank qualifier or wildcard unless their names are Goran Ivanisevic or Kim Clijsters.
That said, let’s look at Serena’s record in Slams specifically the instances when she lost out after making it past the first 7-8 days of the tournament.
Let’s look at her record when she has lost in quarter-finals, semis and finals after putting in all the hard yards to get that far.
Serena has an awesome record in Grand Slam finals: 21-4. Her record in women’s doubles is even more terrifying to her opponents: 13-0. Her four losses in singles finals have come against three opponents: her sister, Venus (2), Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur. Her mixed doubles record is 2-2; this was in the early part of her career before the 2000s.
Serena has appeared in 61 Slams with a winning percentage of 34%.
Steffi Graf has 22 singles titles in 56 appearances including qualifiers with a win percentage of 39%.
Margaret Court who holds the all-time record of 24 titles in 47 appearances with a win percentage of an astonishing 51% i.e. she won more than half of all the Grand Slams she played. Add to that 19 women’s doubles and 21 mixed doubles titles and you will just begin to comprehend her dominance of the game in her era.
Nowadays, Court is more known for her strong views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage in her role as founder-minister of a Pentecostal church called the Victory Life Centre. Court was raised a Roman Catholic but converted to Pentecostalism in the 70s.
Court states that she does not hate the LGBT community and welcomes them to be members of her congregation.
Serena has made the quarter-finals or better 42 times, winning 21 thus equally likely to clinch the title or (somewhat) lose her way.
The table below chronologically lists Serena’s career losses in Grand Slams—quarter-finals and better.
|Tournament||Serena’s Ranking||Stage of Tournament||Opponent||Opponent’s Ranking||Eventual Winner|
|Wimbledon 2000||8||Semis||Venus Williams||5||Venus Williams|
|US Open 2000||5||Quarters||Lindsay Davenport||2||Venus Williams|
|Australian Open 2001||6||Quarters||Martina Hingis||1||Jennifer Capriati|
|French Open 2001||6||Quarters||Martina Hingis||1||Jennifer Capriati|
|Wimbledon 2001||5||Quarters||Jennifer Capriati||4||Venus Williams|
|US Open 2001||7||Final||Venus Williams||4||Venus Williams|
|French Open 2003||1||Semis||Justine Henin||4||Justine Henin|
|French Open 2004:||2||Quarters||Jennifer Capriati||7||Anastasia Myskina|
|Wimbledon 2004||1||Final||Maria Sharapova||13||Maria Sharapova|
|US Open 2004||3||Quarters||Jennifer Capriati||8||Svetlana Kuznetsova|
|French Open 2007||8||Quarters||Justine Henin||1||Justine Henin|
|Wimbledon 2007||7||Quarters||Justine Henin||1||Venus Williams|
|US Open 2007||8||Quarters||Justine Henin||1||Justine Henin|
|Australian Open 2008||7||Quarters||Jelena Jankovic||3||Maria Sharapova|
|Wimbledon 2008||6||Final||Venus Williams||7||Venus Williams|
|French Open 2009||2||Quarters||Svetlana Kuznetsova||7||Svetlana Kuznetsova|
|US Open 2009||2||Semis||Kim Clijsters||19||Kim Clijsters|
|French Open 2010||1||Quarters||Samantha Stosur||7||Francesca Schiavone|
|US Open 2011||28||Final||Samantha Stosur||9||Samantha Stosur|
|Australian Open 2013||3||Quarters||Sloane Stephens||29||Victoria Azarenka|
|US Open 2015||1||Semis||Roberta Vinci||43||Flavia Pennetta|
The statistics in the above table show that Serena has lost to an opponent who was ranked lower than her and not the eventual winner a total of just 5 times.
That’s 5 out of 21. It’s less than a 25% chance that Serena will lose crunch games to players ranked lower than her and not red-hot coming into the tournament and continuing that streak.
The players she lost to? Jennifer Capriati (2), Samantha Stosur, Sloane Stephens and Roberta Vinci.
Despite appearances, Serena is a model of consistency when it comes to performing at Grand Slam tournaments.
Her latest loss notwithstanding, Serena is difficult to get away from when she’s on song and at the top of her game.
Serena is a champion among champions.
Kim Clijsters came into the tournament unseeded on a wild card after coming out of retirement. She went on to win the first Grand Slam of her career. The win lifted her ranking to 19.
Caroline Wozniacki vows not to exhaust herself in 2015.
What she said:
“My only problem with Serena is that I’m tired of losing to her. So I told her, Watch out, I’m coming for you in 2015.”
Caroline Wozniacki nominated her good friend and fellow competitor on the WTA tour Serena Williams for this year’s Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
In a heartfelt essay, the Dane said:
“When you go through hard times, you find out who your true friends are, and Serena Williams was one of the first people to be there for me when my engagement unraveled last spring. She didn’t have to support me—she has her own life, her own problems and her own career to worry about—but she was there when I needed someone to lean on the most. We talked on the phone, and she told me that it was going to be hard to recover, but that when I did get to the other side, I was going to be a stronger person. And now I am.”
“Serena is always concerned about her family and friends. She stays true to her word and never changes her personality for anyone or anything. Throughout her career she has remained consistent as a person, and I think that is really admirable.
…When you play against Serena, you are playing against a fighter and a fierce competitor, but off the court, she is great to the fans and her friends and family. I think that shows a great athlete and a proper champion.”
What she really meant:
“And I’ve got marathon muscle twitch fibre to do it too. It’s going to be a long year, Serena.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“I’ve done one better than you this year, Serena. And that’s at the New York City marathon. That’s good enough for me, buddy.”
What he said:
“Williams brothers…Look at our athletes–elegant and beautiful. I have tremendous respect for them [Williams sisters], but once one of the sisters passed next to me, and I found myself in her shadow for about forty seconds. They are so physically powerful. Weren’t you afraid to play against them?”
Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev made a hash of a television show referring to the William sisters, Venus and Serena, as men casting aspersions on their beauty, style of play and domination of women’s tennis in a single disparaging remark.
Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) CEO Stacey Allaster responded harshly to Tarpischev’s provocative comments with a $25,000 fine. Tarpischev has also been suspended from any involvement with the WTA for a year.
Allaster’s full statement:
“The statements made by Shamil Tarpischev on Russian television with respect to two of the greatest athletes in the history of women’s tennis are insulting, demeaning and have absolutely no place in our sport. Serena Williams and Venus Williams are champions on and off the court – outstanding human beings, incredible sportswomen and amazing role models who have done so much to inspire women and girls around the world to achieve their dreams.
The WTA was founded on the principles of equality, opportunity and respect, and Venus and Serena embody all of these attributes. Mr. Tarpischev’s statement questioning their gender tarnishes our great game and two of our champions. His derogatory remarks deserve to be condemned and he will be sanctioned.
As a result of his comments, I have ordered Mr. Tarpischev to be fined $25,000, the maximum allowed under WTA rules. In addition, he will be suspended from any involvement with the WTA for one year and we are seeking his removal from his position as Chairman of the Board of the Kremlin Cup for one year. His re-instatement will be dependent on good behavior. Mr. Tarpischev’s private letter of acknowledgement is a start. However, Mr. Tarpischev owes Venus and Serena Williams a personal apology, as well as other players and tennis fans everywhere, a public apology.”
“I really don’t like powerful women especially when they can beat the socks out of me (and everybody else) at tennis.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“How about a Bobby Riggs type of match-up, Williamses?”
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.”
Victoria Azarenka Seeks Respectful Silence From Spectators
What she said:
“I would love people to be a bit more respectful and turn off their cell phones and just come and watch tennis and respect that players are doing their job.”
Azarenka, along with Maria Sharapova, is considered one of the worst offenders when it comes to grunting and shrieking on court among women tennis divas.
What she really meant:
“You should put those cell phones in silent mode and just take pictures or videos of me. Let me take care of the decibel levels. That’s my job, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you turn up for? Grunty Azarenka!”
What she definitely didn’t:
“Now, if I could just discover my ‘silent mode‘.”
Sam Stosur Is Imprinted For Posterity
What she said:
“I think I’ll have to go out and buy a couple of my own stamps.”
Sam Stosur is in splits as she considers purchasing stamps commemorating her 2011 US Open victory. The special issue souvenir sheet was issued by Australia Post retailing 10*60 cents Southern Cross for AUS $15.95.
“I know Australia has done it in the past with the gold-medal winners, so to have that of myself is pretty cool. Maybe I can post a few letters.”
Stosur, on the Australia Post website, remarked:
I’m really excited Australia Post has decided to release a souvenir stamp sheet to celebrate my US Open win. The past couple of weeks have been very exciting and I’m still coming to terms with the idea of being a Grand Slam winner. This is something I’ll remember forever.
What she really meant:
“Trust Australia Post to not send me complimentary copies.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“Letter writing? Can anyone recall when they last wrote one? Maybe this will get my fans to switch over to snail mail.”