Tennis Prose



Could Serena Be Finished?

By Scoop Malinowski

It’s a miracle that Serena Williams has lasted as long as she has on the WTA Tour. Her body is not conducive to playing such an physically demanding sport as pro tennis for as long as she has.

Even players like Brian Baker, Guga Kuerten and Jamie Hampton had their careers shortened because their bodies simply broke down.

Serena is 37 now and today she looked like a finished player whose engine just stopped after 350,000 miles. As we know, things can change in an instant in sport and life. Leading Garbine Muguruza 3-0, Serena suddenly lost her powers and surrendered the next seven games.

Down 3-6 0-1, Serena sat down and called a physio and doctor. She sat there lookiing dazed and confused. She decided to retire for what later was described as a viral infection. But you have to wonder, where was the issue in the first three games? Was it a damage control excuse? Jim Courier and Lindsay Davenport called the match on Tennis Channel and both though Serena had a leg issue.

Is it possible, Serena suddenly ran out of gas and realized she can no longer do it? Was this that moment of realization that we all hoped would never arrive? Is it possible her body hit the wall and can no longer compete at this highest level?

Serena’s win two nights ago vs. Azarenka was an extremely draining duel which may have been the final surge of greatness left in her body.

Nine years ago, after she won Wimbledon, a reporter asked Serena if she would still be playing ten years later at age 38? Serena responded that if she were still playing, that this reporter should come out to the court and escort her off, clearly implying that there was no chance at all she would be competing still at age 38.

Serena will turn 38 in September and that press conference comment may have been eerily prophetic.

Serena was asked after winning Wimbledon in 2010 63 62 vs Zvonareva, if she would still be playing at age 38?

Serena Williams: “38?”

Question: Yeah.

Serena Williams: “If I am, I want you to personally take me off and escort me off the court. There’s no way I need to be out there at 38.”

Now 37, Serena will turn 38 on September 26 later this year.

(Excerpt from, Facing Serena Williams/Facing Steffi Graf double book paperback, which is available at for $9.99.)


Perhaps Serena finally senses, at some level, it’s time to depart the sport she loves and has dedicated her life to. But she just can’t accept that it’s over yet.

What happened today in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open, was a very ominous sign. Just a few hundred miles from where the journey first began in Compton, CA, Serena looked finished. Beaten. Broken down. The legs seem unable to get the job done, to endure the marathon effort it takes to win a series of matches to win a tournament.

For all the hours she has spent on hard court playing matches and practicing since age 10, it’s miraculous that she is still a top 25 player at age 37. It’s a wonder she can still move and chase down professional shots, weighing well over 200 pounds with all the mileage on her body.

If ever there was a sign or hint that it’s almost over for Serena, the ultimate champion she will always be, we might have seen it today.



  • catherine · March 11, 2019 at 2:43 am

    Scoop – I agree. Although Serena played well v Azarenka I didn’t think she had great mobility ( disagreed with Dan here) and I couldn’t see her as a serious contender for the title. She’s carrying too much weight in the wrong places, her figure has lost its athletic build and that won’t return.

    Takes a lot for a great champion to admit it’s time to hang up the gloves. Chris Evert retired after losing early, in the USO I think ?, because she could see her future on court and didn’t want to be there.

    I hope Serena can now make the decision which is right for her.

  • catherine · March 11, 2019 at 2:52 am

    It’s true Serena retired at 3-0 and probably Muguruza would not have had much chance of beating a fit Serena but I still see this as straw in the wind. Maybe her aura is gone, or at least has taken a beating.

  • catherine · March 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Sorry – score was 3-6 0-1 – but my meaning’s the same. Normally Serena would have no trouble with Muguruza. If S was ill or injured before the start of the match she should have w/d.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Catherine, if you look at the photos in Facing Serena, her body was so different in her early 20s than it became in early 30s. Yet she worked and trained and played a ton of tennis, it’s mystifying how her body could change so much. Then the baby birth also changed it but the changes were already extreme. Can’t ever remember seeing another player’s body change so much from early 20s to early 30s. Still, it’s miraculous that Serena is still out there and so close to winning majors. Amazing athlete.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Catherine, have you noticed these players now are showing no fear of Serena and they are taking it to her. As if they smell weakness and they have newfound belief they can beat her. They are not intimidated at all. Azarenka and Muguruza were not intimidated at all. Losing to Kvitova in AO was not only devastating in the moment, now the after effects are also devastating. Everyone thinks they can whoop Serena now. And it won’t get any easier for her.

  • Doug Day · March 11, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Two scoops, please. I wont say i cant believe my eyes but you just wrote how someone with the initials SJW weighs “over 200 pounds”…

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 10:12 am

    She has to weigh over 200, possibly 225. Have you ever stood close to her? She’s as large as an NFL player. Talk to anybody who has seen her up close and they all say the same thing: I can’t believe how big she is. They say it about Maria too. . Also Bill Clinton supposedly has a huge head. My friend just saw him recently at The Gap in Mount Kisco buying denim. True story.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 10:12 am

  • Dan Markowitz · March 11, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I think you count Serena out at your own peril. She’s obviously not as stalwart or as much of a specimen as she used to be, but look after coming back from having a child at 37, she’s reached two slams and except for the blip at the Aussie O, she was cruising along Down Under as well Without Osaka emerging, she might’ve won a couple of slams already on her comeback trail.

    She still hits a big ball and she seemed pretty eager to get ready for Miami after having this viral infection at IW.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 10:36 am

    The viral infection is a question. As it is a question how it suddenly appeared after leading 3-0. There was no sign of any viral infection before the match. maybe the Azarenka match was too draining and weakened her immune system. Or maybe it’s a damage control excuse. Miami will tell a lot. Sooner or later Serena is going to hit the wall, if she has not already. I think Serena is the type of player like Michael Chang and Andre Agassi who will keep on playing until the body does not permit. She will not retire voluntarily.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 11, 2019 at 10:42 am

    Dan I know it’s folly to ever count out a great champion like Serena but there was something very ominous and sad about how she looked yesterday. It was like she her super champion spirit and soul died right before our eyes. She didn’t know what was happening, how she could suddenly lose energy. She then got up and walked off the court with her head down, lost and helpless. It reminded me a lot of seeing Joe Frazier lose to Muhammad Ali in Manila, their third and final fight where Joe quit on his stool after the 14th round. She may win a few rounds in Miami against second and third rate competition but against the elite players, she may no longer be able to compete.



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