Category Archives: Australian Open

Serena Williams Withdraws From The Australian Open

A serious title for a serious post. Serena has officially withdrawn from the Australian Open. After last week’s withdrawal from the Hopman Cup, it was pretty likely that this gut-wrentching announcement was to follow, but even so, that doesn’t detract from the shock and pain of seeing such a great champion withdrawing from yet another tournament. She needs tennis, and tennis needs her.

It’s especially sad considering the fact that the Australian Open has come to form the most successful tournament of her career. Not only has she won a total of five slams there, but it has also been the setting for some of her greatest victories and moments on a tennis court - from most likely the greatest performance of her career against Sharapova in the 2007 final, to her multiple matchpoint-saving semifinal comebacks against Sharapova in 2005 and Clijsters in 2003 (from 1-5 down in the third), to the clinching of the Serena Slam as she defeated Venus in the 2003 final.

The reactions to the news have been pretty interesting to say the least. While most are genuinely sorry for her withdrawal, many seem to be writing her off for the rest of her career. And it’s such a dangerous thing to do. I mean she’s Serena Williams, after all. How many times has she proved her detractors wrong? She didn’t get to where she is by following trends. Steffi Graf may not have won any Grand Slams past 31, but did she limit her tournaments and keep herself as fresh as Serena has done throught her career? No.

I also get a sense that Serena herself is fully aware of the fact that she won’t be young forever. Her serve has always been a great weapon, but in recent times she has taken it to even greater heights. At Wimbledon she was practically unbeatable simply because there wasn’t a girl in the world (no, not even Rihanna) who could touch it. The genius thing about that is that it means that rather than sweating it out in every service game, she can just smack down three aces and an unreturnable and the game is hers. Say hello to longevity.

But in general, I think it’s quite pointless and even disrespectful to start writing a player off before they have even hit a ball again. If she comes back and loses in the first round of her next four slams (touch wood that doesn’t happen), then sure, go for it. Hell, even if she comes back and wins the next fourt grand slams it would be fine to write her of, stupid - very stupid, but perfectly fine. But at least give the girl a chance to get back on court before you start writing her tennis obituary.

One thing that will be interesting is to see who takes advantage of this meteor-sized gaping hole in the Australian draw come January. There is so much talent on the tour of today even without Serena - from the older Williams, to the Belgians, to the Russians, to the Serbs, and so on. The problem is that most of them have had an absolutely abysmal 2010 and have played far below what they are capable of, and indeed far below the level they have performed at in the past. But the new year brings a clean start and a fresh beginning, and so if the aforementioned do decide to turn up and play elite tennis, then we could still be in for a cracker of a beginning to 2011. I sure hope they do.

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