What if it wasn’t a foot fault? What if she hadn’t jarred her ankle? What if she converted one of her four match points? Once again Serena Williams’ grand slam campaign has been a case of so near, but so far.
Taking on Karolina Pliskova on the Rod Laver Arena, 37-year-old Williams was on the verge of booking a place in the Australian Open semi-finals. Leading 5-1 in the decider, a sequence of dramatic events combined with some stern resistance from across the court denied her. On her first match point, the American appeared to have fired an ace to seal victory, but it was deemed a foot fault by the linesman. In the next point, she jarred her ankle in what the start of her undoing. Enabling Pliskova, who is still unbeaten in 2019, to roar her way back to clinch the match in dramatic fashion with the help of a six-game winning streak.
“I think honestly she didn’t start playing until she was down match point. I think she really gave it her all at that point. I don’t think giving up was an option for her.” Williams said in tribute to Pliskova.
“At that point I’m just trying to think, Okay, win some points, win this game. Then I had a couple more match points on her serve. Naturally I thought, All right, here we go, you’re going to win one of these.’
“That clearly didn’t happen, but I was just trying at that point.”
Since her comeback from giving birth to her first child, grand slam tennis has been nothing but heartbreaking for the American. At the French Open she reached the fourth round before withdrawing due to a Pectoral injury. At Wimbledon she eased into the final before imploding against a dominant Angelique Kerber. Flushing Meadows saw her engage in a heated confrontation with umpire Carlos Ramos, which ended up in her being docked an entire game in the final and later fined $17,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now in Melbourne she squandered a 5-1 lead in the decider against Pliskova.
It is almost as if a spell has been cast upon Williams by Margaret Court, who currently holds the record for most grand slam singles titles at 24. Williams is currently on 23. Nevertheless, the always resilient Williams refuses to be down. Already stating her desire to equal Court’s record at the next major.
“Right now would be Roland Garros because that’s the next one, the next Grand Slam for me. I mean, 22 is close, 23 wasn’t close, but 22 was close for a long time. 18 was close forever. Yeah, we’ll see.” She commented about her grand slam tally.
More play, more success?
Since returning to the WTA Tour in March, Williams has stuck to a limited schedule. In fact, she has only played in four tournaments (excluding Hopman Cup) outside of the majors. All of which has been in America. Some would argue that somebody of her calibre and maturity doesn’t need a Dominic Thiem-like schedule. On the other hand, is the lack of match play hindering her performance?
“We (my team) haven’t really discussed our tournament schedule, to be honest. Maybe that’s something we should discuss.” Williams replied when asked about expanding her schedule.
“We’re kind of just going with the flow, what we’ve played throughout the years, not really changing too much of that.”
Once the most dominant figure in women’s tennis by a considerable margin, Williams believes it will take time for her to hit full throttle. Although she has already shown glimpses of her true talent in recent days. Illustrated by her first set annihilation of world No.1 Simona Halep during their fourth round meeting in Melbourne. So far in her career, Williams has won 72 WTA trophies and spent 319 weeks as world No.1
“I know there’s a lot of things that I need to do, a lot of things I need to do to get better, a lot of maybe more just matches. I don’t know.” She analysed.
“I just feel like as close as I want to say that I’m there, I know that there’s a lot more that I need to do to kind of get there. 10 months, soon to be 11 months, soon it will be 12 months. It just takes time.”
The time is there, but the question is how much longer does she have left? Williams is currently the fourth oldest player to have a WTA ranking. This doesn’t mean that the end of her career is near, but not even the greats of the sport can go on playing forever.
This may be why chasing after major title No.24 might be one of the most challenging obstacles in Williams’ illustrious and record-breaking career.
Nothing Tops Star Power At U.S. Open
Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on this year’s US Open.
NEW YORK — Tennis is still all about who’s playing the game.
Parents watch their kids grow up through their junior tennis days. Then maybe college tennis.
But when it comes to watching big-time tennis such as at the U.S. Open, nothing tops star power. That was never more evident than Friday and Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
NEW YORK CROWD UNSURE ABOUT MEDVEDEV
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is red hot this summer, first on the U.S. Open series where he lost in two finals before winning in Cincinnati. And then he made the U.S. Open final.
But the New York crowd doesn’t get very excited about the 6’6″ wonder. Empty seats were plentiful Friday afternoon when Medvedev knocked off Grigor Dimitrov in the first men’s semifinal. Even if the crowds weren’t excited about Medvedev, they should have been thrilled to see Dimitrov. Obviously, the fans weren’t too happy that Dimitrov had taken down Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
But, suddenly, when Rafa Nadal took center court for the second semifinal, fans were everywhere. That was for a match against a relative newcomer to big-time tennis. Matteo Berrettini could play, but he was no equal for Nadal.
NADAL MAKES EMPTY SEATS DISAPPEAR
Yet, it was time to be sure you were in the correct seat. The empty seats had disappeared.
The U.S. Open had switched gears. It had gone from the frenzied atmosphere of young
Americans Coco Gaulf, Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend to a different reality.
The old-timers, better known as all-timers, might be nearing the end of the road in big-time tennis. Yes, the list includes even Serena Williams.
Nadal took care of his end of the bargain with the fans by turning away Berrettini in sraight sets to secure his day, and a spot in the final against Medvedev.
Serena couldn’t save her day in Saturday’s women’s final, despite the efforts of a packed stadium of wildly cheering supporters. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu simply was better on this day.
ANDREESCU MIGHT BE FOR REAL
Of course, Andreescu has plenty of time to set records and win fans. Serena rallied from 5-1 down in the second set, and appeared headed for another possible magical win when she tied the set at 5-5.
In the end, Serena failed again in her attempt to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Andreescu.
Serena might have made 2018 champion Naomi Osaka’s career a year earlier when Serena couldn’t notch Grand Slam title No. 24 then, either. Now, Andreescu may be ready to make her mark on the game. Getting by Serena was a big step. Andreescu might join the all-timers one day.
When another Grand Slam season gets underway in January in Australia, the tennis world really might be turned upside down. Novak Djokovic’s early departure along with the 38-year-old Federer’s and Stan Wawrinka’s losses in the next round were shocking, along with the early collapse of all of the super women’s stars except Serena.
SERENA, FEDERER AND NADAL IN A DIFFERENT WORLD
The young women’s stars such as Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Simona Halep and Ashleigh Barty, along with Medvedev, Berrettini, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime among the men aren’t likely to evolve into all-time stars the way Serena, Federer and Nadal have.
That’s just the reality of big-time tennis. Serena, Federer and Nadal are players for the ages, just like Rod Laver was. Their fan bases are in for a major change, or they can switch to the sometimes unpredictability of this new group.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
2019 US Open: A common road led by contrasting routes for Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung
Amid the huddle of early-round exits and some scattered withdrawals, a couple of players made the most of opportunities they received at the 2019 US Open. Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung came through the qualifying rounds to win their initial couple of rounds with conviction and make their way forward even as rest of the playing field blew open around them.
Being qualifiers is the denominator common to them this week. Yet, in a way, the 23-year-old Chung is trudging a familiar route as compared with the 25-year-old Koepfer who is a relative newer face to watch at the Slams.
In 2018, Chung had made it to his first semi-final at a Major – at the Australian Open – taking down then six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals’ titlist reached a career-high of 19 in the world after his Australian Open jaunt in 2018. Koepfer, on the other hand, is yet to break into the top-100 – with a career-high of no. 113 attained in the second-week of August. His best result at the Majors – before his fourth-round appearance at the US Open – was reaching the second round at Wimbledon this year.
None of these differences in the respective roads they have travelled on the Tour mattered as they tried to make it to the main draw. Chung’s injuries that kept him away from the circuit (for almost five months this year) meant he had to start from scratch, at the Challenger level. Koepfer’s being a mainstay on the Challenger circuit – for now – meant he, too, would start from the same position.
In doing so, the sport has made levellers out of them. Their past results do not matter. It is how they do against the opponent of the day that matters. Three qualifying rounds followed by the sterner main-draw test that also comes by way of lengthier matches. In this regard, Chung has already faced two such difficult matches in his first two rounds this week against Ernesto Escobedo and Fernando Verdasco in which he had to play five-setters to extricate himself.
The draw’s narrowing has also meant the task ahead of them has gotten harder. This is also where their paths diverge once again. If Tulane University alumnus in Koepfer is the equivalent of a dark horse, Chung’s previous experience makes him a dangerous floater.
If the two end up being truthful to this tag of theirs, the chaos component at this year’s US Open will be the accentuation separating itself from the monotonous.
2019 US Open, And The Growth In The Divide Between Players And Officials
The 2019 US Open has barely begun but off-court news surrounding the sport’s refereeing officials have reverberated more than the on-court results.
Argentinian chair umpire Damian Steiner was removed by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for giving interviews without consulting the ATP about accepting those. Among the players, Nick Kyrgios and Serena Williams continued with their less-than-respectful behaviour. Kyrgios towards the ATP which docked him $113,000 in fines for his rants against Fergus Murphy in Cincinnati. And, Williams towards Carlos Ramos, who umpired her 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka.
These incidents are revealing of the dichotomy spanning the players and the officials’ positions. Let us look at the players’ side of this chasm first. Kyrgios’ had no remorse about his behaviour against Murphy. Neither was he upset about being fined. Nonetheless, he attempted to duck from his mistakes by blaming the ATP for the penalty.
“Not at all. The ATP is pretty corrupt anyway, so I’m not fussed about it at all,” Kyrgios replied to a question about the fine in his post-match press conference. He, then, turned into a quasi-interrogator as if perplexed by the question, and the fine. His rhetorical question was, “I got fined 113K for what? Why are we talking about something that happened three weeks ago when I just chopped up someone first round?”
Kyrgios’ lackadaisical approach towards rectifying his errors was infuriating. But perhaps not to the same level as the exasperation evoked by Williams’ words, in her press conference.
After her first-round win over Maria Sharapova, Williams, in response to a question about Ramos not umpiring her matches at the event this year, chose to be snarky instead of giving a straight answer. “Yeah, I don’t know who that is,” she stated impassively as though the person and the events of the previous year did not concern or involve her.
Now, imagine a scenario in which either Murphy or Ramos, or both wanted to speak up and finally decide to share their vexations about receiving such attitude from the players in an interview. They cannot even do that without seeking permission from the sport’s governing authorities. Moreover, a message was sent in making an example out of Steiner that umpires did not have the backing of their job if they decided to forgo the rules.
The game’s viewers may take it as in indication that tennis’ rules belonged to the “never to be broken” category. However, this move will only embolden the players to be more abrasive and impolite to the umpires. Instead of looking at them as maintainers of the game for the duration of the match.
Case in point: Stefanos Tsitsipas’ ranting at Damien Dumussois when the Frenchman asked him to quicken his time at change of ends. “You have something against me. You’re French, probably. … You’re all weirdos,” he went on, insulting not only the umpire but also his nationality, and his countrymen.
Undoubtedly, it was said in momentary anger because of how the match was turning against him. Yet, if the rules are to be so correctly enforced – and they were in this instance, in Dumussois asking the eighth-seed to speed up – players ought not to complain.
However, grievances – actual and perceived – are bound to come up. As such, sanctioning players with fines (and even suspension) for raging at the umpires is a stop-gap remedy. Players will not – and did not – hesitate to fulfil the terms of their punishment. They will also continue with their tirades, as and when things do not go their way in a match.
On the other hand, for the umpires, this is like a repetitive cycle of viciousness. Tennis’ managerial authorities need to incorporate a system in which the umpires get to openly communicate about the players’ misconduct without being isolated, and treated as the sport’s second-rung members.
Kyle Edmund Confirms Split With Coach After Early Exit In Chengdu
Ubaldo Strikes Again And This Time John McEnroe Is Involved!
Fallout Over Substitutions Rule Overshadows Europe’s Laver Cup victory
(VIDEO) Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev Guide Europe To Laver Cup Glory
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga becomes the first player to win four titles in Metz
(VIDEO) Where Do You Want To Be When Your 70? Ubaldo’s Latest Exchange With Roger Federer
(VIDEO) US Open Day 7: Is A Federer-Nadal Final Now Guaranteed?
Novak Djokovic To Play Revamped Davis Cup In Madrid
Roger Federer Slams Claim He Influences Scheduling At US Open
(VIDEO) US Open Day 6: Naomi Osaka Ends Gauff’s Fairytale Run
(VIDEO) Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev Guide Europe To Laver Cup Glory
(VIDEO) US Open Day 14: Rafael Nadal Ends The Tournament With An Extraordinary Win
(VIDEO) US Open Day 12: Bianca Andreescu Is The Queen Of New York
(VIDEO) US Open Day 12: Daniil Medvedev Stands In The Way Of Nadal’s 19th Grand Slam Title
(VIDEO) US Open Day 11: Why Bianca Andreescu Toppling Williams Will Not Be A Shock
Hot Topics1 day ago
Andy Murray Undecided On Future, Plays Down Chances Of Returning To His Best
Hot Topics1 day ago
Former Mentor Of Dominic Thiem Slams Trio Of Rising Stars In Men’s Tennis
ATP2 days ago
Andy Murray Set For Sandgren Rematch In Zhuhai As Race To WTA Finals Heats Up
Focus3 days ago
Team Europe Leads 3-1 After Day 1 of Laver Cup
ATP2 days ago
Kei Nishikori Withdraws From Asian Swing Due To Elbow Injury
ATP3 days ago
Danil Medvedev beats Andrey Rublev in all-Russian quarter final in St. Petersburg
Media2 days ago
(VIDEO) Roger Federer Edges Kyrgios To Continue European Charge At Laver Cup
ATP1 day ago
Injury Forces Rafael Nadal Out Of Laver Cup