September 9, 2016
Poor Serena Williams was about to cement her position as the greatest player of all time. Now she isn’t even the greatest current player.
Such is life and the decree of the ranking system. She dominated for 186 weeks, a WTA record never to be forgotten.
Angelique Kerber will be the new world number one because she has reached the US Open final and Serena, for the second year running, hasn’t – falling when it was least expected.
Full credit must be given to the Czech sensation, Karolina Pliskova. She defeated Serena 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) with a fine dsiplay of athleticism and nerve.
Questions will be asked of Serena’s fitness and her ability to negotiate the latter stages of Slams so that she can lift the big trophies away from London.
Later Williams, who had been suffering from a sore left knee all tournament, commented graciously: ‘I wasn’t at 100% but I also think Karolina played so well.’
With the exception of Wimbledon and the grass that favours her game, Williams seems to be finding success more and more difficult to come by.
The US Open, with all the pressure of expectation on home ground, has proved particularly traumatic for her in the last two years.
It may take time for her to recover emotionally, just as it did last year when she was also knocked out at the semi-final stage.
However, the knowledge that she is just one Slam short of outright history in the Open era should steel her for one more year of trying.
To be level with Steffi Graf on 22 Slams is already extraordinary. Maybe she can still go one better.
The way Pliskova blasted through that first-set 6-2 was almost shocking in its ruthlessness.
Ever the warrior, Serena looked to be heading for parity when she took early control of the second-set tie-breaker.
But then she faltered. And she went out in perhaps the most painful way possible, with a double fault.
Kerber, meanwhile, was supremely confident as she defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3.
Later she said:’It’s just incredible, it’s a great day. To be here in the final for the first time means a lot and to be number one in the world – it sounds amazing.’
And few can argue that she deserves top spot after winning the Australian, then reaching the finals at Wimbledon and now Flushing Meadows.
Who knows, perhaps the knowledge that she is no longer world number one will take some of the pressure off Serena.
Pressure, you feel, has been taking its toll as much as those advancing years. Let’s not rule her out just yet.