Ser­ena out to make history

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

PARIS — The ex­cep­tional per­for­mance, con­sis­tency and re­silience of Novak Djokovic since the mid­dle of last Oc­to­ber had hinted at the pos­si­bil­ity that he might just em­u­late Rod Laver’s 1969 Grand Slam.

In­stead, for the 23rd year in a row, fol­low­ing up Aus­tralian Open suc­cess by win­ning at Roland Gar­ros has proved be­yond any man.

But not be­yond Ser­ena Wil­liams. Even a sick Ser­ena Wil­liams. By win­ning in Mel­bourne and in Paris, the world num­ber one has given real mo­men­tum to the the­ory that the cal­en­dar Grand Slam is well within her com­pass.

Djokovic was in­cred­i­bly gra­cious af­ter his four-set de­feat by Stan Wawrinka, which also de­prived him of mem­ber­ship of that elite group of play­ers who have won each of the sport’s four Grand Slam events.

His achieve­ments ap­pear to merit in­clu­sion, but for now he shares the frus­tra­tion of Pete Sam­pras, Boris Becker, Ste­fan Ed­berg and Jimmy Con­nors, who won ev­ery­where but on the Roland Gar­ros clay.

The de­feat will sting, but may yet drive him to even greater heights. Af­ter all, he won Wim­ble­don last year just four weeks af­ter los­ing the French Open fi­nal to Rafael Nadal, and this year he has an ex­tra week to re­cover.

It may also con­sole Djokovic that Wawrinka had to pro­duce one of the more ex­cep­tional per­for­mances in a Grand Slam fi­nal to deny him his place in history.

Wawrinka may not have the con­sis­tency of Djokovic, or Roger Fed­erer in his prime, but he has proved be­yond rea­son­able doubt that his Aus­tralian Open tri­umph was no flash in the pan.

Nadal may be strug­gling in 2015, and Fed­erer no longer able to sus­tain his best over five sets, but — as Andy Mur­ray will tes­tify — the com­pe­ti­tion for Grand Slam ti­tles re­mains in­cred­i­bly in­tense.

The same can­not be said of the women’s game, but that is not to take any­thing at all away from the ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ments of Ser­ena Wil­liams. Bat­tling flu, and taken to three sets on five oc­ca­sions, she again proved too good for the field to win a third ti­tle in Paris.

When Wil­liams lost to Gar­bine Mugu­ruza at Roland Gar­ros and to Al­ize Cor­net at Wim­ble­don in the space of a few weeks last sum­mer, her days of dom­i­nance seemed num­bered. But a cou­ple of months later, and just a few days shy of her 33rd birth­day, she pulled level with Chris Evert and Martina Navrati- lova on 18 Grand Slams by win­ning the US Open. That tally is now 20 and she has, quite lit­er­ally, power to add.

Her longevity is per­haps the most re­mark­able fac­tor. Wil­liams won her first Grand Slam as an 18-yearold in New York in the last cen­tury.

“She hasn’t played like Roger (Fed­erer) — she hasn’t played a full 17 sea­sons in a row,” says her coach Pa­trick Mouratoglou, by way of ex­pla­na­tion.

“She still likes to play, she still takes a lot of plea­sure from the game, and she feels that she can still dom­i­nate ten­nis and win Grand Slams.”

Wil­liams her­self said af­ter los­ing to Ana Ivanovic at last year’s Aus­tralian Open that she had long since given up on the idea of win­ning all four Grand Slams in the same year.

But Mouratoglou thinks it is pos­si­ble.

“Why not?” he says. “That’s prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult thing to do in ten­nis, so that would be some­thing to­tally in­cred­i­ble. But why not? It’s go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult, but it’s pos­si­ble.”

Wil­liams will hold all four Grand Slam ti­tles si­mul­ta­ne­ously for the sec­ond time in her ca­reer if she wins Wim­ble­don next month.

The orig­i­nal ‘Ser­ena Slam’ was com­pleted at the 2003 Aus­tralian Open, and if she does it again, she will be just one Grand Slam ti­tle shy of St­effi Graf’s Open Era record of 22.

“Even sick, she re­mains the best,” seven-time Grand Slam cham­pion Justine Henin said at Roland Gar­ros.

“I don’t see a girl, or four or five girls that can push her. In a match for sure she can be dom­i­nated, but over a whole year she’s still the best player in the world.

“When she wants to win some­thing she usu­ally has the ca­pac­ity to do it. I’m not very con­cerned about the fact that she can be at the top of the game for the next two or three years.”


Ser­ena Wil­liams

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