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.
”Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more? This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year.The mentality I walk on court with is: I deserve this.”
“Fashion is very important for me, so (whatever I wear or design) always has to be fashionable. But clearly it also has to be functional. They go hand-in-hand. I wouldn’t pick one over the other. But it’s easy to design something functional without being fashionable. It’s about challenging yourself to push it a little bit.”
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.
What she said:
“I want to learn Indian dance. I’ve seen some interesting moves in the movies. I don’t know the names of the movies, but I enjoyed the steps. It would be great to get the help of an instructor. It’ll be a fun activity, and I’m looking forward to it. Who knows where that might take me.”
Venus Williams is looking forward to her visit to India next month where she will be participate in Vijay Amritraj’s Champions Tennis League representing her franchise Bangalore Raptors.
Feliciano Lopez, Thomas Enqvist and Ramkumar Ramanathan are her partners-in-racquets.
“India is always in my plans. I’ve been meaning to return after my first visit, but I didn’t get an opportunity…. Serena and I did well in the tournament; we played a great semifinal. I’m excited to be back in Bangalore again.
Vijay’s (Amritraj) standing in Indian tennis and given all that he has achieved internationally, besides my desire to visit India again, was why I decided to play the league.
Indian tennis has great history. Sania (Mirza) had a good win in Singapore. Doubles success is not something that should be taken lightly. There will come a stage when success in doubles could translate into performances in singles.”
On her retirement plans:
“I definitely aim to play Rio, the 2016 Olympics.
After that, let’s see. I don’t think I can plan that far ahead. I have enjoyed this season, played a lot of good matches; got some good results. I’m getting better physically and game-wise, and my confidence is up again. I’m looking forward to 2015. I have a few things that I would like to improve in my game, my second serve for instance. Most of the goals I have in tennis at this stage are to do with skills rather than numbers.”
On the sari:
“It is one of my favourite outfits. I’ve forgotten how to tie it, though. I want to re-learn that. It’s an elegant attire, and I’d like to get a handle on how to wear it.”
What she really meant:
“Bollywood choreographed dancing seems like a great aerobic workout. What a fun way to exercise. Perhaps it’ll help me get on ‘Dancing With The Stars’.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“You think, I can be an Item Girl in ‘Dhoom 4’?”
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?”
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.
What she said:
“I just like to receive fun packages. I don’t open the packages with orthotics in them or the sports shorts. (Laughs) I’ll open the ones with the DVDs and the new books and the new clothes. I got a textbook in my last package—I find those exciting, sadly. [What subject?] Organizational behavior.”
Venus Williams loves to receive packages of any kind. Books, DVDs, clothes are par for the course. Textbooks are exciting, paradoxically.
What she really meant:
“It feels like Christmas every time I receive one.”
What she definitely did not:
“I want a manual: ‘How To Play Tennis Like A Pro’. Get me one of those.”
“While I’m playing well, I’m just going to try and dominate.When I’m done, I’ll dominate somewhere else.”
Venus Williams is still struggling with her form—evinced in her World Team results. The five-time Wimbledon champion feels that she will be just as competitive in her outside interests as she is on-court, once she retires from the game.
What she really meant:
“Domination’s the name of the game—be it tennis, fashion or anything else.”
What she definitely didn’t:
The quarter-finals dawned with not a Williams in sight. No Serena, No Venus.
Yes, they had both returned from injury. They had adequate warm-ups before the championships but not the desired results for bookies to up the ante.
Yet it all seemed business as usual, past the first week.
The odd-makers re-installed Serena as queen over the weekend.
It was not to be. Serena could not stop a rampaging, charged-up Marion Bartoli.