Can Serena Williams win Grand Slam No. 24?
- Serena turns 39 this year, and it is not going to get easier from here.
The last time Serena Williams won a Grand Slam title was in the year 2017. The legendary American beat her sister Venus in the summit clash, to lift her 23rd Grand Slam title, and seventh in Melbourne. The win also brought her within just one Slam of equaling the all-time record of the iconic Margaret Court, who has a gargantuan 24 Grand Slam titles to her name.
But here we are three years later in 2020, and Serena has not added even a single Grand Slam to her tally since. And in an absolute shocker, she was eliminated in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open yesterday, losing 4-6, 7-6, 5-7 to China's Wang Qiang.
After her stunning loss, this is what Serena had to say:
“If we were just honest with ourselves, it's all on my shoulders. I lost that match. So it is what it is … it’s not about the tournament, it's just like I can't play like that. Like, I literally can't do that again. That's unprofessional. It's not cool. I'm definitely going to be training tomorrow. That's first and foremost, to make sure I don't do this again."
It seemed like a statement born out of the desperation that she had fallen short at a Slam yet again. Serena has been on the cusp of history for a while now, but the last mile suddenly looks tougher than anything she has achieved in her career so far.
Is Father time slowly and stealthily getting hold of Serena?
The woman turns 39 this year, and it is not going to get any easier from here. She has undergone several physical changes over the last couple of years, giving birth to her daughter and subsequently suffering a whole host of injuries. She doesn't seem equipped to handle the strain of consecutive long three-setters anymore, and the pressure of being so close to Court's record is only making things worse.
This is not the first time that a legendary athlete is struggling at the final hurdle. The greatest batsman of all time, Sir Don Bradman, fell for a duck when all he needed was a solitary boundary to end his career with a three-figure average. The legendary Sachin Tendulkar had to wait for a painstaking 370 days to score his 100th international hundred.
"I don't play just to have fun. To lose is really not fun, to play to lose, personally. I seem to do well the last two Slams of the year. I don't know. I have won them all several times. Each one is definitely an opportunity for me to go out there and win," Serena added.
At the highest level, every year on the wrong side of 35 is a new indication that mortality is catching up. However great an athlete may be, age catches up eventually - both in the physical aspect and the mental.
Serena has lost four Grand Slam finals in the last two years. Four times she has almost got one hand on the trophy, only to let it slip away. For a woman who had won 11 of 13 Grand Slam finals leading up to 2017, she has acquired a strange new habit of stumbling at the last hurdle.
Clearly, the pressure of the record is getting to Serena.
The climb is going to be an uphill one from here. And while Serena is someone who will not give up, she has to understand that the battle to be won is as much mental as it is physical.
With the younger athletes getting better and her own powers slowly starting to fade away, it would take a Herculean effort from the American to add to her Grand Slam silverware.