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Tennis: Serena Williams' perfect season ended

2015-05-08 22:55:24

Serena WilliamsSerena Williams' 27-run winning streak comes to an end

There goes Serena Williams' undefeated season, thanks to a listless 6-2, 6-3 loss to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the semifinals at Madrid.

That snapped a 24-match winning streak to start 2015, a 27-match winning streak overall, a staggering 50-match winning streak in Premiere Mandatory events (the terribly named set of tournaments that are considered to be one tier below Grand Slams) and the fourth-longest winning streak of the century.

Not that an undefeated season was ever a realistic goal, or a goal at all, for that matter. The only undefeated goal is a 28-0 record in Grand Slam events, which would make Serena the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to pull off the feat. These types of tournaments for Serena are all about training for the big ones, one of which begins in a little over two weeks at Roland Garros. And, to be honest, Serena’s loss on Friday might be the best thing for her quest to win the Slam: The fewer hours she spends on a competitive court between now and the French Open is better for her chances at the Slam.

Serena WilliamsSerena Williams and Petra Kvitova

Maybe a 90-minute match on May 9 against surprise finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova (who upset Maria Sharapova) has no effect on what happens 16 days from now in Paris. Or maybe the reverse is true — the loss to Kvitova hurts Serena mentally and she begins a spiral after playing a non-competitive match against a player not known for her clay-court prowess, thus forcing Serena back for next week’s event in Rome to tinker with her game.

I’m of the opposite mind. The fewer hours Serena Williams spends on a competitive tennis court between now and May 24 is the best thing for her French Open chances. She doesn’t need to play in Italy, the final pre-Paris stop for the top stars on the ATP and WTA. What’s the point? There’s no correlation between her results there and in the French. For instance, in 2012, Serena made the SF of Rome and lost in the first round of the French. The next year she won them both. In 2014, she won Rome and lost in the second round at Roland Garros. If there were some discernible Rome-Paris progression than, absolutely, play both. Since there’s not, why bother?

Take these next two weeks to alternately practice and relax. Go sing some karaoke. Play with your dog, Chip. See if Caroline Wozniacki wants to come to Paris early and get some dinner after she’s ousted in Rome. Don’t bother with another tournament.

You can literally count on two hands the women who have defeated Serena Williams in the past three seasons: Victoria Azarenka, Jana Cepelova, Alize Cornet, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova, Sabine Lisicki, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams. The aura of invincibility is still there. Why detract from that by risking a loss in Rome and rolling to France with back-to-back disappointments.

Let them be afraid. Let them all be afraid. Then start a new winning streak, getting seven-straight to hoist that trophy at Court Philippe Chatrier and become just the second woman in 24 years (Monica Seles in 1991 and Jennifer Capriati in 2001) to get halfway to that elusive goal, the tennis Grand Slam.


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