Tennis Prose



AO: Serena Shows Class of Champion In Defeat

By Scoop Malinowski

Serena Williams had control of the AO quarterfinal, 46 64 51 and match points from a semifinal showdown with rival Naomi Osaka.

But then Serena faltered and lost six straight games to bow out of the tournament and the much-anticipated revenge match versus her nemesis, Osaka.

What happened? How could Serena Williams, the greatest champion of all time, crumble like a crumb cake? 5-1 lead and match points and she can’t close the show?

I have a theory and it was not a choke or miracle comeback by Pliskova. It may have been a subconscious tank.

It’s possible Serena subconsciously tanked the match so she could show class in defeat. To redeem herself for the horror show at the US Open final last year. Having exhibited phenomenal class and composure in what could be the most astonishing loss of her career, Serena is now forgiven by the tennis gods and the tennis world and she’s a respected champion again. And the black cloud that hunger over here is now forever gone after the honor and class she showed in suffering through those agonizing final six games.

You see? Serena had to lose gracefully first before she could become a champion again. And she did that tonight vs. Pliskova.

The US Open final last year was traumatic for Osaka and Carlos Ramos but maybe it was even more traumatizing for Serena, she is the one that had to live with the guilt and anxiety, the embarrassment and shame of that disaster for the rest of 2018.

You see? Serena has a heart of gold underneath her warrior exterior. Yes, she has to fight so hard for everything in tennis and she steps over the line sometimes but she is one of the greatest champions in tennis history. She has a heart of a champion and a heart of gold, all champions do.

My favorite Serena heart of gold moment is when she lost the Wimbledon final to Maria Sharapova and after the match on court, when Maria was in the box hugging and celebrating with her dad, the TV camera showed Serena from her chair, watching that celebration for a about five seconds and the look on Serena’s face I will never ever forget. Serena was actually happy for Maria in those seconds, she understood how important and magical that moment was for her and her father and she felt a little joy also for them, even though it was at her own expense. Serena showed her heart of gold in that moment.

So yes Serena Williams lost at the Australian Open tonight, surely one of her most painful failures. But sometimes a champions gains more respect in defeat than any of their glorious triumphs.



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  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Osaka is very special, that win vs Serena at US Open proved it, to keep her composure through all the Serena chaos was very very special. Now to win her very next major is also special. Will need to research who the last WTA player was to win her first two majors in a row. Even Serena could not do this, Serena won her first major at US Open in 1999, then her second came at French Open in 2002.

  • Hartt · January 26, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Scoop, the commentators said that the last player to win her first 2 Slams in a row was Capriati.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Thanks Hartt, that is good info, it shows how rare and special it is to accomplish. Now the question is which player won her first three in a row. I would guess it has never been done.

  • catherine · January 26, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Scoop – I had a brief look and I don’t think 3 in a row has been done before. Could be wrong.

    My list of top WTA players who disappointed at AO :

    Halep (new coach asap)
    Kerber (tried that)
    Wozniaki (health ?)
    Stephens (same Halep)
    Svitolina (injuries)
    Kasatkina (who knows ?)
    Sabalenka (less hurry,more focussing)
    Serena Williams (career decline)

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Catherine, I think Osaka is going to dominate. Winning majors seems to make her even better, and fuels her hunger for more. I really don’t see a major threat to her right now. Halep seems content with what she’s done and I don’t see a burning desire to be no. 1 again. I don’t know if the tennis powers that be really want her as the face of tennis again. Kerber Sloane, Woz, Garbine – similar lack of spark. Svitolina just doesn’t have enough though she should win a major or two. Serena is not going to get any better. Could be finished as a major champion. Sabalenka’s loss to Anisimova could be devastating, let’s see how she responds. I really see Osaka getting better and dominating.

  • Hartt · January 26, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Scoop, apparently winning the first 2 Slams in a row has never been done on the men’s side!

  • catherine · January 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Scoop – I agree – Naomi’s performance has livened up the WTA to a degree I didn’t expect so soon. The other players will have to shift up a notch, apply themselves or accept that they’re going to be runner-ups all too often.

    A few seem to be resting on past laurels or on their bank balances. I didn’t include Muguruza because I never considered her a contender. She gets millions in endorsements – why should she bother ?

    Kerber maybe learned a lesson in Melbourne – she wasn’t mentally prepared for Collins, took a bathroom break after 20 mins in an effort to reset, didn’t ignite, and never connected with the match. Schuettler is going to have to be sensitive to Angie’s mental triggers. Or it’s going to be a weary trudge through the season.

    Don’t know what’s happened to Sloane. She needs her previous coach back or a replacement. No competitive fire at all.

    Sabalenka can be a potentially great rival for Naomi – does she need to slim down a little ? I think they are about the same height.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Hartt, good researching, I think you are right. I can’t think of any. Remarkable rare achievement by Osaka. At such a young age too. Capriati was much older when she did it. Hope Osaka makes it three or four or…

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Catherine, my guess would be Kamau Murray asked for a pay raise and Sloane didn’t agree and let him take a break. There is absolutely no way Murray would willingly step aside and stay in Chicago doing private lessons, than coach Sloane Stephens at AO. This had to be a about money. But it doesn’t explain SS’s lackluster performance.

  • catherine · January 27, 2019 at 6:15 am

    I suspect Sloane’s personal life has something to do with this – if she’s still with current boyfriend – she seemed very happy and maybe that’s blunted her competitive desire. That sounds pretty sexist but human nature being what it is…..

    Oh and I came across some of Kerber’s pics from Vogue. Phtoshoots seems to interest her more now than her performance on court about which the less said the better. But all nice euros I suppose.

    I begin to wonder who she thinks she’s appealing to in some of those shots. Not aspiring tennis players I shouldn’t think.

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