London Olympic Games 2012

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Serena Williams Alexandra Willis

Alexandra Willis

Serena Williams, the most dominant female player of the past decade, is an extraordinary anomaly: A decade-long winner in a sport where longevity has often gone the way of wooden rackets and white balls.

The younger of the two Williams sisters, who famously entered her first professional tournament without her father knowing bceause he didn't feel she was ready, made her first impact at Wimbledon in 1998, winning the mixed doubles title alongside Max Mirnyi. Few could imagine what she would go on to achieve. Missing the 1999 tournament because of injury, in 2000 Serena swept all the way to the semi-finals, only to fall foul of her sister Venus. In 2001, Jennifer Capriati was her conqueror, this time in the quarter-finals. Serena seemed to be going backwards.

But all that changed in 2002. Arriving at Wimbledon on the back of her second Grand Slam title, at the French Open, Serena came past first Amelie Mauresmo and then sister Venus, winning the title without dropping a set. Taking the world No.1 ranking, she went on to complete 'the Serena Slam' - holding all four Grand Slam titles at once, the first player to do so since Steffi Graf in 1988. It is an achievement that has not been repeated since.

Having won Wimbledon again in 2003, Serena suffered a surprise loss to Maria Sharapova in the 2004 final, lost in the third round to Jill Craybas in 2005, and missed the 2006 tournament entirely. With rumours swirling about her absence from the game, Serena entered the 2007 Australian Open ranked just No.81 in the world, and pulled off one of the performances of her career to win the title. Although her success in Melbourne did not translate to Wimbledon, exiting the tournament at the hands of Justine Henin, the following three years saw the Williams sisters reclaim their hold on the Venus Rosewater Dish. A finalist in 2008, Serena won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

Not only that, the younger Williams is also a tremendous doubles player. She and sister Venus have completed a career Slam of the four Major doubles titles, winning the Wimbledon ladies' doubles on four occasions, when every time, one or other of the sisters had won the singles trophy earlier in the day.

There is no doubt that Serena is intimidating. When she gets that banshee wail going, double-fisting left, right and centre from all corners of the court, hooped earrings flying all over the place, most of today's opponents simply stop and stare. And you can't blame them. But reputation alone does not make you a world-beater. Nor does talent. No matter how well Serena wallops the ball, she has beaten far more talented ball-strikers than herself. And for that, she has to thank her approach to the sport.

Half the battle in tennis is staying healthy, but staying interested is most of the rest. The Williams sisters, first Venus, and then Serena, have always played sparingly, which lent them a certain mystique long before they were champions. Everyone knew about the Williams sisters, they just didn't know what made them tick. Since then Serena and (to a lesser extent) Venus, have picked and chosen when to be immersed and when to step back. Few athletes have the self-assurance to do that and to handle the inevitable fallout. But Serena has it in spades. No matter how much you may like or not like her, there's no denying that Serena has a passion for life, and a passion for tennis. That unusual ability to combine the two seems to be her secret. We wish her all the best on her road to recovery, and hope to welcome her back to The Championships to defend her title in 2011.

Singles Champion:2002, 2003, 2009, 2010

Doubles Champion:2000, 2002, 2008, 2009

Mixed Doubles Champion:1998

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