Serena Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, will miss the Australian Open next month, citing fitness. The seven-time Australian champ says she is not physically ready to compete.
“Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year’s Australian Open. While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Williams told the website. “Melbourne is one of my favorite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”
This is the second consecutive major missed by Williams. She skipped the U.S. Open in August as she was still recovering from a right hamstring injury suffered at Wimbledon.
Williams, now 40 years old, hasn’t played a match since. Her ranking has dropped to 41.
The official Twitter account for the Australian Open tweeted out support for the great tennis champion and icon.
All our love, @serenawilliams 💙
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) December 8, 2021
There is no doubt that Williams is the Greatest Of All Time and can make a claim as one of the five greatest American athletes, man or woman, ever. Check her credentials.
But Father Time waits for no one and is undefeated. He comes for us all, even the greatest.
Can SW23 play high-level tennis? Of course. We’ve seen it. But can she play high-level tennis over an entire fortnight, the length of a Grand Slam tournament?
At this stage of her career, that remains to be seen. The thing about aging in sports is your bad days are really bad. When an athlete is in their prime, youth can get them past bad days. But as they age it becomes too tall a task.
Serena hasn’t made a Grand Slam final since 2019. In 2020 and 2021 she only made the semifinals of a Grand Slam once each year. These used to be routine for her.
Soft tissue injuries and wear and tear have taken their toll.
Serena made her Grand Slam debut in 1998. That was 23 years ago. For perspective, the youngest player in the WTA top 10 this year (Iga Swiatek, No. 9) wasn’t yet born. The oldest player (Karolina Pliskova, No. 4) was 6 years old.
Serena’s peers that came up on tour with her have long since retired. Only sister Venus still plays.
The GOAT hasn’t remotely hinted at retirement, and she should only retire when she’s ready. Her belief that she can still compete with women half her age at the highest levels is why she is who she is.
The great ones in any sport possess something that we mere mortals do not. They can access something deep within their recesses that can push them to heights only they can see.
She hasn’t retired yet because she believes she can still win Grand Slams and because she wants to own the all time record. Margaret Court has 24 Grand Slam singles titles, 13 of them won before the Open era (1969). Williams has the Open era record.
Record or not, what Serena Jameka Williams has accomplished in the sport of tennis is unparalleled. She’s dominated across different decades, changed her game and remained the queen of her sport.
One day she will step away and there will be a lot of emotions expressed from all around the world. That day is coming, sooner rather than later. But maybe she’ll give us all just a little glimpse of that magic one more time.
She believes she can, and we shouldn’t doubt it.
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