BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells
Women’s Final: [CR1] Serena Williams (USA) vs. [CR15] Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Let me preface this by saying that from the first time I saw her play I have admired her tennis skills. Serena Williams deserves all the accolades and recognition she has received for what she has accomplished. I have been following her tennis matches for a very long time and this new Williams is not the Serena Williams that fights for the victory, especially in a final. Perhaps she is tired of tennis and wants to move on? Or could it be that the pressure to constantly be successful has become too much of a burden? Neither possible reason explains why she can play such brilliant tennis and get to the final, only to lose because of very questionable performance.
Williams has 21 Major titles, she is one shy of tying Steffi Graf’s 22. She had the opportunity to do just that at the 2015 US Open when she suffered what I still consider the biggest upset in tennis history in the semifinal. Fast forward to 2016, Williams dropped 26 games in six matches and did not lose a set before she got to the Australian Final. She lost to an opponent that under normal circumstances would never be a challenge. This is why I am convinced that she is feeling the pressure of tying Graf’s record and potentially surpassing her.
Yet, that does not explain today’s performance against Victoria Azarenka. I am completely baffled at this 4-6, 4-6 loss. She defeated Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska, and had not dropped a set en route to this final. I can understand starting slow, but the Williams that I’ve followed closely over the years does not step on the tennis court with such an attitude of dis-interest. Was that just a cover for her nervousness? She admits and we know as fans that she cannot win every match; however, it is the way that she is losing that makes me ask these questions. I know she can still win several more Majors because she can get through the draws; it’s the Final that seems to have become her mental stumbling block. Does she care enough to try to overcome this or has she accomplished enough to not really care? I find that hard to believe, I think she still wants to surpass Graf’s record.