a A few hours later Serena Williams He was knocked out of the Road Laver Arena and lost in the late stages of a major tournament again, and the Eurosport team had met in front of the cameras to discuss the play of the day. There stood Barbara Chet, her last activity in 15 years, who had played against Williams three times, and via video link, Williams’ former rival Justin Henin, who retired in Melbourne 10 years ago. Henan is a year younger than Williams, now the mother of two, and when asked if she sees herself competing like Williams again, her response was simple: “No way, no chance.”
Whereas, Williams competes against players like Naomi Osaka, It’s easy to forget that her true contemporaries are women like Schett and Henin. They have all almost retired long ago, lead full lives, and are enjoying the fruits of their court labor in peace. Meanwhile, Williams has just competed in her 77th Grand Slam tournament, putting her second on the all-time list for her sister Venus, who played her 88th last week.
This longevity clearly does not console Williams. The last photo of her in the tournament she was suddenly leaving her press conference crying. There are already discussions about her future, about the exact meaning of her waving when she left court, but she is allowed, too, to feel frustrated at how things have continued. Since returning from pregnancy she has consistently put herself in a position to win. When her performances in the Grand Slam Finals weren’t enough, she went further and worked harder.
Over the past month in Australia, Williams has been moving better than at any time in the past four years. While opponents like Simona Halep immediately pointed out the difference between then and now, she was also happy and optimistic about her progress. When asked before the semi-finals when she last moved as it is, she replied, “A minute has passed for sure. It was Long A minute, “she said.” I think 19 … 1926, summer 1926 I think was the last time I felt that. “
However, none of them have succeeded. The biggest problem for Williams is not her game, but how she lost the killer instinct that had characterized her for so long. Consider some of her exploits at the Rod Laver Arena alone: in 2003, she recovered from falling 2-5 against Kim Clijsters to win by Serena Slam. In the 2005 semi-finals she saved three match points in the semi-finals to defeat Maria Sharapova. Two years later she won the whole title while she was at number 81. In 2017 she was pregnant and easily exhausted, so she saved up her energy by beating everyone else in straight sets.
By 2015, Williams’ record in the Grand Slam Finals was 21–4. She was the closest. Her ability to excel in the toughest moments was so popular that it was easy for people to forget how hard it was to win even one title. Now we know. Since Williams fell to Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open chasing the Grand Slam, her last record has been 2-6, and she has lost 4 semifinals since then more than the rest of her career.
She has gotten to a part of her career where the experience can be harmful. She knows a lot: she understands exactly what it means to win the Grand Slam title, that it is all over soon and that every failure is a missed opportunity. Winning is very difficult under the circumstances.
Meanwhile, Osaka represents some of the freedom and fortitude it has lost. First, she refused to make one superficial foul in the last 22 points of her return in the fourth round to Garbiñe Muguruza from 3-5 15-40 down, then she responded to the serve’s loss with three double faults versus 6-3 and 4-4 against Williams by winning the last eight points and the match. . She is now chasing the record 4-0 Grand Slam Finals.
It remains to be seen whether Williams will be able to play freely enough even to compete for her 24th Grand Slam title. Whether or not she did, rather than fail, this period is rather a context for what it took her to really achieve all that she had.