Women’s tennis has not had a lot to cheer about in the past few years. Inconsistencies and fitness issues interfering and marring the players’ professional longevity season-to-season, women’s tennis saw some stellar performances and certain equally demoralising and unexpected finishes.
But however inconsistent and unmerciful the past might have been for women’s tennis, 2012 by all odds saw a marked difference amongst their ranks. Be it Azarenka’s purposeful stride to claim the top of her rankings as her own – by way of her first major, or Sharapova’s sheer mastery of the red dirt at Roland Garros, 2012 gave each and every women’s tennis fan a reason to cheer about. And then some more, for Serena Williams’ idolaters.
There are always a lot of adjectives associated with the American, and not all of them complimentary. Yet, no matter her conduct and comport on-court, no one can fault her on her commitment to the game. Time and again, she’s proved it and 2012 was a season to do so all over again. Not because she had to put a horrifying 2011 behind her, but because she had to prove that she could still stand tall; as tall as she once stood, before injury and illness claimed her for their own.
It wasn’t perhaps the perfect of starts. The Australian summer, first saw Serena pull out of Brisbane with an ankle injury and then later on witnessed her unexpected upset in the hands of Ekaterina Makarova, a Russian about whom not many had really heard about. Ditto that for the French Open, where Virginie Razzano handed her her first-ever first round loss at the Slams.
The mark of the champions, it is said, isn’t counted by their victories alone, but also by the way they come through after their losses and hardships. Where the summer Down Under saw Serena’s shaky form, the British summer saw her awe-inspiring rejuvenation. Where the tennis world turned, Serena was always in sight. Always at her best on the Wimbledon grass, Serena reached her seventh Championships final, creating and breaking a few records along the way. Taking on first-time finalist, Polish Agnieska Radwanksa, the American countered each point of her young opponent’s with a strong-armed one of her own. It took her three tiring sets, but after the final point was won, Serena’s 2012 Wimbledon endeavour ended up to be a lots of things – a power-packed adventure, a coup like no other with the defending champion withering away and a demonstration of mental skills as much as it was about physical endurance to go the distance.
She came, she saw and she conquered. Her opponents capitulating under her onslaught one-by-one, Serena’s rule at the grass courts came to an even more exciting finish at the London Olympics. A year ago she might have battled for life, not knowing whether she would get to go back to the courts where she belonged, but at the London Olympics there was no shadow of doubt that Serena had finally come home; yet again. She reigned over them all, winning USA’s possible-umpteenth gold medal and her second winning podium at Wimbledon within weeks of her first. Not an unwelcome sight, that was.
And then came the American summer. The doubts crept in as did the scepticism. Not about her performance, for sure but about her ability to hold her tongue. Given that the past two years had seen Serena lose points and favour with the chair umpire for her ill-mannered demeanour, many wondered if Serena would yet again fall prey to her own faults. She held on, to her nerves and to her temper, and went on to defeat the Belarussian for her 15th title at the majors.
A career golden slam, seven titles – two majors and five WTA open wins – sum up Serena’s 2012. A year’s worth of painstaking effort, constructed point-after-point, match-after-match and tournament-after-tournament, explained in about 20-odd words. Maybe it’s an incomplete tribute to an outstanding performance by an all-time great. But incomplete or not, till the tennis world gets its first glimpse of the self-assertive American in 2013; these words, along with the few visuals available, are just a way of looking back at one of Serena Williams’ finest year of professional tennis.