Tennis Elbow: She’s still got it
May 28, 2012 · Print This Article
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at the best player on the WTA Tour, Serena Williams–with apologies to Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and others.
Serena Williams is the best player on the WTA Tour. Oh, she may only be ranked No. 5 in the world, but don’t let the rankings fool you.
At the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open, on the blue clay no less, Williams was crowned champion. In the quarterfinals, she toyed with Maria Sharapova, the No. 2-ranked player, and beat her convincingly by the score of 6-1, 6-3. She was just as ruthless in the final, against the world’s No. 1 player Victoria Azarenka–6-1 and 6-3. These types of matches, with these scores, usually happen in the early stages of tournaments and against lesser opponents.
This win comes about a year after Williams’s career almost ended when she underwent treatment for pulmonary embolism. That she’s back, and winning matches against the top players, is great for women’s tennis–because make no mistakes about it, the WTA is better with a healthy and dominant Serena Williams.
The 30-year-old can’t turn the clock all the way back to 1995. Do the math, and the difference between 2012 and 1995 is a lot. At her age, she is closer to the end of her career than she is the beginning, but her best is still just as good as anyone else’s as she proved in Madrid.
Of course, she might have fewer and fewer of her best days, but there’s a misconception about Williams–that she is a five-time World No. 1 player means that she has lost the title five times. She was never dominant in the manner that Roger Federer was on the men’s side for example.
But it’s not a reach to see Williams as this era’s great champion in women’s tennis. Over $35 million in prize money, 13 Grand Slam titles, two Olympic gold medals, and 43 career titles are only some of the highlights. She brought a powerful game to women’s tennis, which most agree made the sport a better one.
And Williams has also done something else this season, something that seemingly very few have had the courage to do–standing up to the tandem of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Lest we forget, these two gentlemen put their diva suits on after losing at the same Madrid Open where Williams won.
Shut up and play, she told them–don’t blame the blue clay.
The irony, of course, is that this same criticism applies to Williams. For as many titles, matches and money has she won playing tennis, Serena has spent as much time on interests outside of the sport. She’s not the dedicated champion who lives, eats and breathes tennis like much of us love to see–and some see this as a knock on her rather than a sign that she has a balanced lifestyle.
Yet whenever Serena Williams has played, and she has since 1995, she has been quite dominant, successful and entertaining. Some may counter that her career could have been so much more, but at this point it’s all a guessing game. Who knows what would have happened had she focused on nothing but tennis ever since she turned pro?
(Personally, I think she would have retired long ago–Williams has spoken already about the fact that she isn’t passionate about tennis. She says she needs it, but doesn’t necessarily love it. Take away her interests outside of the WTA, and maybe the sport doesn’t seem quite as essential anymore.)
Rather than focus on how much more she could have won, let’s look at how much she has. If you ask me, I’ll say it’s good enough.
For what it’s worth, maybe this time Serena is back, focused, healthy and hungry. Maybe Serena will simply play tennis–and we’ll be watching every shot she hits. She may not love tennis, but I love watching her play tennis.
by: Charles Blouin-Gascon