Serena Williams at 22: 3 Things she did right to create history at Wimbledon 2016
All eyes were set on Serena Williams as she made her walk from the Women’s locker room onto the Center Court for the Ladies Singles final. Along with Angelique Kerber, her opponent for the final, a slew of questions followed the 21 time Grand Slam Champion.
After losing the finals of the Australian Open 2016 and French Open 2016, would Williams make this final count? Would she be able to calm her jittery nerves, if any? Would she be able to equal the record of the legendary Steffi Graf?
With an inspired performance, Serena Williams answered all these questions with an emphatic ‘Yes’. Since her shocking loss to Roberta Vinci in the semi-final of the US Open 2015, Williams did make a few changes to her game. It took a year for all those elements to fall into place. She could not have asked for a better place than the hallowed portals of Wimbledon, where she won her 21st Grand Slam, for her game to come together in order to create history.
Learning from the Australian Open 2016 loss put to good use
Angelique Kerber is a great counter puncher and a clever striker of the ball. Consistent off both flanks, the German is tenacious and tough as she keeps the ball in play and engages opponents in long rallies. Her supreme retrieval skills make the opponent play an extra shot.
Williams made a lot of errors in the Australian Open final when Kerber made her play that extra shot. Most of them were at the net. Williams , in addition to unforced errors from all other parts of the court, made horrendous volleys at the net including the final volley that sailed wide and gave Kerber her first ever Grand Slam title.
Williams came very well prepared for the Wimbledon 2016 final. She had ironed out the creases in her forecourt game and perfected the volleys. Kerber made her play a string of volleys at the net that included some tricky ones. Williams did not overcook any volley. She either calmly directed the ball into the open court or kept her eye on the ball for a couple of impressive drop volleys.
Employed a cautious start and transitioned to controlled aggression
Williams is usually a slow starter. However, in yesterday’s final, she made sure of making a positive start by holding her serve in the first game. Unlike her match against compatriot Christina McHale in which she was broken in the opening game, Williams started cautiously.
She did not try to fire aces from the very first point. Instead, she reduced the power in her serve and aimed higher for accuracy. This allowed for her jittery nerves, if any, to settle down and get a feel for the ball.
As the match progressed, Williams was sporadically explosive and added more loop to the ball to keep it in. Her serving department was close to immaculate and she fired some booming serves at clutch points of the match. With 13 aces to her tally and winning 88% of her first serve points, Williams had the match on her racquet from beginning to end.
Serena Williams has always been known as an amazing front runner. After winning the first set 7-5, there was just no looking back till she crossed the finish line.
Relaxed and focused throughout the final
There was a marked improvement in the way Williams handled pressure not only in the finals but all through The Championships. Rarely showing any emotion, apart from a stare to her box and a fist pump, after every match win in the run-up to the finals, Williams seemed to have spent a lot of time with Coach Patrick Moratouglou in getting mentally tougher.
A very relaxed and focused Williams played percentage tennis in the final that helped her keep the unforced errors in check. Williams did let out her trademark “Come On!” and looked extremely animated after winning a couple of points in the match. One, when she put away a volley after a long rally at 3-3 in the first set with Williams serving at 30-15. The other time was when she bagged the first set.
Williams avenged her Australian Open 2016 defeat to Kerber in style. There was absolutely no room for nervous moments while she served for the title. After serving three bombs to earn three Championship points, Williams completed the rout by ending a 5 shot rally with yet another simple and an effective volley.
There were no tuck jumps and dancing to celebrate the win. Williams lay sprawled on the grass and held her arms up in jubilation as a sense of relief washed over her. After a warm embrace with Kerber at the net, Williams sat in her chair just soaking in the significance of her victory. As she waved to the crowd and acknowledged their support, Williams flashed the No.22 with both her hands towards her box.
With her calm demeanor after the historic win, Williams did not look very different after her losses in the last two Slam finals at Melbourne and Paris. She seemed to stay true to the inspirational quote – If you can meet Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same..” inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Center Court.
By equaling Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Singles Grand Slam titles, Serena Williams became the oldest Champion at the age of 34. Her latest win is a testimony to her longevity and dominance in tennis. Williams first became World No.1 on July 8th, 2002 after winning her first Wimbledon title. Yesterday, on July 9th 2016, 14 years later she is still the World No.1 with 7 Wimbledon titles and 22 Grand Slams in total.
This could be the start of yet another golden run for the Great Williams. Her next target would be Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles. It is undoubtedly a daunting prospect on paper but not for Serena Williams.