With Wimbledon less than three weeks away, one of the most pertinent questions lurking the minds of tennis fans all over the world is whether Serena Williams will go on to clinch her 22nd major title at London, tying her with Steffi Graf as the most successful women’s player in the Open Era (in terms of grand slam tally). The great American champion was within inches of clinching her twenty second slam at Paris last week but was denied the glory by a spirited effort from the very talented Garbine Muguruza; who went on to clinch her first major title. While many believe that it is just a matter of time before Serena wins another slam, others are doubtful.
Serena, who is 34, clearly does not have age on her side and therefore every missed opportunity certainly costs her dearly. Only a fool would question whether or not she has the ability and the grit to win another slam, but concerns regarding her fitness and stamina are certainly relevant and cannot be done away with. The fact that the world number one is still consistently reaching grand slam finals, if not winning them, is absolutely remarkable. However, such are the standards that she has set for herself that even a Runners-up trophy seems like a huge let down. Fans who can barely hold their nerves in anticipation can’t wait any longer to see their favourite tennis player reach the much sought after 22 slam mark.
Serena has always liked the grass at Wimbledon and the six time champion would certainly be pinning her hopes on this years championships. But it is certainly no mean task, even for a great champion like her, considering the huge plethora of talent coming in who have the ability to decimate the toughest of opponents. The two weeks in Rolland Garros were a telling demonstration of this phenomena. However, talent is something which won’t bother Serena much, she herself being one of the most gifted ever to hold a tennis racket.
Therefore, the only thing that might just stand between her and the Venus Rosewater Dish is fitness and more importantly nerves. Women’s tennis is getting more physical and fitness oriented by the year and in fact it is Serena who has inducted this new physique oriented and hard hitting style of play into women’s tennis. Still, there is nothing Serena can do to beat time, which surely is going to take a toll on her body after all these years. The younger Williams sister has been no stranger to injuries which at one point of time could have even jeopardized her whole career. Although Serena has not had any major injury scares lately, it is certainly going to be difficult to keep up with the agility and pace of the younger lot.
It is very well known that you can be nothing short of being completely fit to be able to play on the grass at Wimbledon, where the ball skids off the surface and comes quickly on to the racket. Serena is fast approaching retirement and the kind of age she is in, you never know which grand slam might just be her last.
However, despite her age, Serena has still managed to keep her fitness to a reasonably good level. So what is it that is coming between her and another slam? The answer is, quite simply, nerves. Being the fierce competitor that she is, even Serena is not above some good old fashioned nervousness. These nerves had almost cost her the 2015 French Open Title.After her far from convincing win over Lucie Safarova in the final, she was quoted as saying:
“I choked, simple as that. I hit a lot of double-faults, and my first serve just went off. I got really nervous, it was a big moment to win 20”.
She was able to get through on this instance but she might not have the same kind of luck always, specially against tougher and more relentless opponents.
As Federer has shown, the nerves tend to fray a bit when you get older and since no sport is more mental and nervy than tennis, it certainly hinders the older players’ ability to win the biggest events in the sport. But Serena can certainly win slams even with nerves playing, such is her potential and ability. She only has to find a way to not let them get the better of her, especially during crucial points. This she can only do if she manages to shift her focus away from the hype surrounding her 22nd win and just focus on each match as it comes.
Williams has always been a fighter and on numerous occasions she has come out on top, even with all the odds stacked against her. If she is able to keep her body in shape and more importantly keep the butterflies in her stomach in check during those two weeks, there is little doubt that she would again be crowned the Wimbledon champion and this time permanently etch her name in tennis record books. Whether she would finally break this grand slam jinx or not, only tennis’s most coveted grand slam would tell. Meanwhile, all that fans can do is keep their fingers crossed, and Serena can only do what she does best-play tennis.