steffi graf

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Serena Williams is no choker: Statistics don’t lie


English: Serena Williams at 2009 Australian Op...

Serena Williams at 2009 Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

I digress.

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

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.

 

Li Na: What she said, really meant and definitely did not


Li Na and Ioana Raluca Olaru at the 2009 US Open

Li Na Is From Venus

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.”

Andre Agassi: What he said, really meant and definitely did not


Cover of "Open: An Autobiography"

What he said:

"I fell in love with tennis far too late in my life, but the reason I have everything I hold dear is because tennis has loved me back."

Andre Agassi admits that he was not always pleased with having to grind his way on the tennis circuit. He learnt to love the game as he grew older.

What he really meant:

“Tennis and Steffi (Graf) loved me back, man. They sure did.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Haven’t you read Open yet?”

Sania Mirza: Whither Goest Thou?


BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Sania Mirza if India during the second round match match at The AEGON Classic between Sania Mirza and Tamarine Tanasugarn at the Edgbaston Priory Club on June 9, 2010 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Sania, A Volcano Of Talent

It was a heady day in 2003, when Sania Mirza burst onto the stream of Indian sport consciousness, an awareness that if India were to ever have a world beater in an individual sport , it would not be a hirsute male, but a member of the weaker, fairer sex.

Sania Mirza erupted onto the scene like a long dormant volcano, heralding the birth of a new breed of Indian athletes , who not only excelled at their sport but were media savvy and clever enough to carve an image, a niche for themselves, in games other than cricket.

 

NEW YORK - AUGUST 25:  Sania Mirza of India arrives at the Glam Slam 06' party presented by Tennis Channel, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and ATP at Crobar August 25, 2006 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images For The Tennis Channel)

She was smart, she was intelligent, she was articulate, she was pretty, she was sexy, she was photogenic and she had attitude with a capital A. She carried off the anachronism of a nose ring with aplomb and style. To top it all , she owned a killer forehand -  the one that drew comparisons with Steffi Graf , her idol incidentally– , that was almost impossible to return when she dispatched the tennis ball with all the power and strength at her disposal. The forehand was flat and it was skiddy.

Sania Mirza had arrived on the stage of world tennis and Indian tennis would never be the same again. Or so we hoped.

Quote of the day:
An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it. – Jeff Mallett

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