March 28, 2016 — Serena Williams has been having a hard time. Since she lost in the semifinals of the U. S. Open, the arguably best woman tennis player has struggled with injuries. With emotions. And, with winning. Today she was upset by long-time rival and friend, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The loss for Serena raised eyebrows and continued the current debate … what’s wrong with Serena?
Her loss also ended a 20-match winning streak at Crandon Park, and halted the hopes of winning a ninth title on her, as she puts it, ‘home court.’ She had not lost before the quarterfinal since 2012.
As the number-one seed and, by far, the biggest draw for the event on the women’s side, her exit hits the tournament hard. Add Williams to the list of those who greased the exit door before her, and you could say the Miami Open is having an off year.
Rafael Nadal withdrew from his match on Saturday, feeling dizzy from heat and humidity in the third set. Roger Federer, an unexpected tournament addition, didn’t even play a match and hadn’t since knee surgery immediately following the Australian Open. He withdrew with stomach problems the day he was supposed to have made his appearance in front of an-always giddy group of fans. Stan Wawrinka lost in the second round, playing as if he couldn’t wait to get inside and take an ice bath.
It’s worse on the women’s side. Of the top-10 seeds, eight have lost. Some due to poor play. Two, though, retired during their matches. The weather, with 60-70% humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s, has been a problem. The ‘Federer virus’ began taking its toll in Indian Wells, last week.
Kuznetsova, seeded No. 15, had never beaten Serena in Miami, having played twice: the 2008 semifinals and the round of sixteen in 2015. The two seasoned pros began their careers in the late 1990s. Their results are disparate, though. Serena has won 21 singles Grand Slam titles. Kuznetsova has won two. However, this year the Russian has outpaced Williams in titles, having won one to Serena’s zero.
The two-hour, third-round match went the distance. Serena won the first set in a tiebreak, which normally assumes she would win the match. That wasn’t the case. Kuznetsova is a tough competitor and certainly not afraid of power, Serena power. Thus, ‘Kuzy’ pulled the rug out from under Williams, 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2.
“I did the best that I could today and I can’t win every match,” Williams told the press, according to The Sun Sentinel. “These players come out and play me like they’ve never played before in their lives. It was the best I could do today and I have to be 300 percent every day, so …”
Apparently, Williams zipped away from Crandon Park without as much as a nod to fans who screamed her name from the balcony that overlooks the departure area at the site.
The stats point to a continuation of poor technique and tactics. She wracked up 55 unforced errors and 9 double faults. Kuznetsova, on the other hand, committed 18 unforced errors and served eight aces.
Serena’s footwork, shots that force her to hit on-the-run, and routine rally balls seem to be causing her problems. They are uncharacteristic for her ability.
Her emotions, too, seem to be nearer the surface than in years past. When presented with her second-place trophy at Indian Wells, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka, Williams choked back tears and apologized to fans for her less-than-stellar performance. Anyone could immediately see why she had played so inadequately. Her mind was a muddle probably before she stepped on court that day.
“There’s obviously expectations, but I think overall, I put a lot of expectations on myself,” she added today. “That’s pretty much hard to live up to, the expectations I put on myself.”
Truer words have not been spoken by Serena Williams. Going forward to the European Clay Court season, she will have to find ways to accept herself, her tennis, and the nature of the game ‘regular’ pros deal with daily — expect mistakes. Another thing she should probably consider — forget what other people think, write or say. Stay on your side of the court, Serena. That’s where the magic always happens.