Being Serena Williams: A Champion in Heart, a Champion in Mind

Blog by: Sharada

The Championships - Wimbledon 2012: Day Eight

She is reigning queen in the tennis world with none to compete against her might on the court. Always a fierce competitor, in more recent times the blade of her fierceness seems to have been honed even more sharply. Each of her achievements have become milestones such that where in the men’s tennis realm, American tennis seems to be falling short considerably to meet the standards established by the past greats of the game, women’s tennis is inching towards breaking newer barriers with each passing day.

Age then is no barrier to the way Serena Williams’ been piling on the title count, putting a gulf of difference between herself and the rest of her contemporaries. Starting as the undisputed favourite in all tournaments this season, the 32-year has notched such a precedent that matching it has become a tall order for the rest of the women’s tennis ranks.

And though, she hasn’t been exactly invincible – falling prey to younger opponents in a handful of matches – it’s her rise from all those surprising losses that have then accounted for Serena to be regarded as a far more dangerous opponent. Where she lost – in the most unexpected of manners – in the Australian Open quarter-final to the then-unseeded Sloane Stephens; Serena Williams more than made up for that momentary aberration with an emphatic performance in the French Open winning her second Roland Garros title after a decade. And then came the sweep of the US Open series after the disastrous culmination of her Wimbledon outing – where she ended up on the losing side despite having a lead over her German opponent, Sabine Lisicki – which not only hoisted up her career winnings, but also accounted for her finishing the season as the world no. 1.

Attributions that have come in the wake of Serena’s ruthlessness on the court speak about her new coach has wrought in changes not just to her game, but also to her attitude; and of the pulmonary embolism that was not merely life-threatening, but ended up altering the very course of her professional life. It is then not surprising to see a different manifestation of Serena Williams; a more mellowed persona who poise and calmness speaks much about her transformation, as in the years previously her temper tantrums and lapses in control defined her.

Perhaps that’s the reason why alongside winning ranking points and titles, she’s managed to awe more number of people with her maturity and mental fortitude on the court. No longer a brat that she once was, watching Serena Williams in action these days then brings a completely different qualitative appeal in that there’s absolute surety that Williams won’t throw the match away arguing with the umpire and the linesmen presiding over the match. That the world then refuses to think beyond Serena Williams, be it any tournament on any playing surface is testimony to the way she’s channelized herself putting her firmly on the route to equalling – perhaps even surpassing – some of the greatest female players that the sport’s ever seen.

As it stands, Serena’s just five majors away from surpassing Steffi Graf’s tally of 22 majors, a horizon that doesn’t look at all difficult given the way she’s been playing. Incidentally her total of 17 majors puts her on par with Roger Federer’s tally of 17 majors, making them both interesting subjects of comparative study in the larger context of the sport considering that both belong to the same age-bracket. And alongside this study of these two trendsetters, there’s also a question that keeps popping up as to if at all these two players had to take on each other, in a one-off match, who would emerge to be the winner? For knowing Serena, even that would be an encounter pushing everyone to the very edge of their seats.

 

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