January 24, 2020
Serena Williams is out of the Australian Open. Many experts had made her favourite to win the whole thing.
Qiang Wang of China beat the legendary American 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 7-5. The result in itself is surprising. The same player only managed to take one game off Serena at the US Open. But should anyone really be so surprised that Serena didn’t win Grand Slam number 24? Her lateral movement and footwork against Qiang Wang almost completely deserted her at times. That contributed in no small way to Serena making more than fifty unforced errors.
She confessed: ‘I made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today. I literally can’t do that again. It’s unprofessional and it’s not cool.’
We can hail her achievements, we can hail her courage and her comeback. But we cannot make her favourite for a Grand Slam.
That’s not to rule out her chances of winning one again. Wimbledon 2020 represents her best chance of equalling Court’s 24 Slams. That’s if she chooses to battle on. The US Open would be a great place to retire if she feels the time is right. We sincerely hope Serena finishes the Grand Slam year. Wimbledon will be even richer for her participation. And she will receive an even warmer reception at Wimbledon if we fear that 2020 will be her last appearance there as a singles player.
Have we seen the last of Serena as a singles contender at the Australian Open? Maybe.
Qiang Wang fights on this year and she isn’t surprised. She claimed: ‘Me and my team believed I could do it.’
Losing the second-set breaker shook that belief temporarily. She admitted: ‘I was a little bit confused but I had to be calm. My mind always told me I had to focus.’
And focus she did. Especially when it mattered in those last two games.
So will she be celebrating her victory and Chinese New Year?
‘No,’ came the comical, dead-pan reply.
A tiny little celebration?
‘No,’ she insisted firmly.
Cue more laughter. So what will she do instead?
“Take a rest and prepare for the next match.”
She will look ahead not back. Even though the last match was probably the best of her entire life. If Serena Williams could be forgiven for starting to contemplate retirement, her great friend Caroline Wozniacki is already there.
Ons Jabeur beat her 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to prompt an emotional goodbye from the Danish former world number one.
A tearful Wozniacki admitted: ‘There are a lot of emotions going through me. I did my best but it wasn’t to be.
‘There was an amazing presentation for me and that was really cool.’
Serena was almost as tearful on Wozniacki’s behalf, as she wished her well.
Ashleigh Barty is our tip for Australian Open glory.
And she is still dreaming of a victory presentation at the end of her fortnight in Melbourne. She beat Elena Rybakina 6-3, 6-2 to ease into week two. But even the current world number one will have to raise her game if she is to fulfil her potential on home soil. Barty will have to settle her nerves and unleash the aggression much earlier against better opponents. For now, she is just enjoying the Aussie Open experience. But she needs to bring out that inner warrior if she is to win her second Slam.
Serena Williams has always been the ultimate female tennis warrior. But she has lost her fight this time. She will hope for a better Grand Slam run before the end of 2020. And as she pointed out, she wouldn’t compete if she didn’t believe that she could win another Slam.
For now, she clearly does still believe it. So do many others in the tennis world. And we hope they’re right.