January 19, 2014
Red-hot favourite Serena Williams saw her dreams of a Calendar Slam destroyed in the very first month by a resurgent Ana Ivanovic.
Williams blamed a back injury, which isn’t thought to be too serious in the long run. ‘I almost pulled out,’ she admitted. ‘I’m such a competitor, I probably should have.’ She still won the first set 6-4, but lost the next two 3-6 to see her hopes of achieving something truly historic ended almost before the year had begun.
‘It’s amazing,’ said a delighted Ivanovic.
And it was. The 26-year-old Serb became a sensation six years ago, won the French Open and climbed to World Number One. Her glamorous looks made her one of sport’s hottest properties and she seemed to have the world at her feet. But it all fell apart for Ivanovic from that point on. She appeared to lack the physical power to stay at the top in the modern women’s game. And although there had been encouraging signs of late, Ivanovic was still only 14th seed in Melbourne.
So much for appearances, so much for the form book. So much for those who wrote off Ivanovic and predicted that Serena would be nothing short of indestructible in 2014. Serena had been perceived as the perfect tennis machine and understandably so, because she had already won the Australian Open five times.
Of her Calendar Slam dreams, Serena insisted: ‘I gave up on that a long time ago.’ But then again she has little alternative now. This stunning shock merely underlines the beautiful unpredictability of tennis. Yet we have been reminded once again that she remains as vulnerable as any other human being – and that the clock is ticking on her greatness, just as it ticks for everyone else.
We should appreciate the tennis greats while we still can – they won’t be at the top forever.
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