Thursday, 21 November 2013

Player analysis: What sets Serena Williams apart?

At the age of 32, most tennis players will be enjoying their post tennis life with a family and maybe a couple of kids. However, Serena Williams turns back the hands of time and dominated the tour with 11 titles in 2013 with an impressive 78-4 win-loss record. One must wonder, what does Serena have that makes her so damn good?

Number 1: Serve

Serena always had a massive serve and was capable of serving herself out of trouble. In the earlier stages of her career, Serena was always tempted to go for the big bombs every single time. Now, with her experience and impressive repertoire of other serves, she chooses the correct delivery. The American no longer goes for the radar gun numbers anymore, but instead places her serve which gives her the advantage. It is also extremely difficult for the opponent to read Serena's serve as she tosses it the same way for every serve. If there's a stroke where everyone should emulate, it is Serena's impressive serve.

Number 2: Fighting spirit

Serena is an expressive person and it shows on court. In her younger days, she often found herself expressing too much on court, and the opponent picked up on her vulnerability and frustration. These days, Serena fights, but only to psych herself up. She still shows moments of frailty and outbursts of anger, but she channels that energy to play even better. Not forgetting her intimidation factor. Her presence on court is so commanding that the match is sometimes lost before the opponent hits the first ball. Serena believes she will win, and the opponent sometimes is influenced too.

Number 3: Fitness

Being a naturally aggressive player, it's difficult for Serena to rein in their power and not go for outrageous shots when pulled wide. Serena's game has matured from a pure power player with almost no back up plan, to a smart tennis player who knows when to pull the trigger. Sure, the earlier Serena would have a lot of shots in the highlights reel. But it's the victory that matters; and with her improved fitness, Serena is able to stay in the point and wait for the right moment to pounce.

Number 4: Schedule

Serena is not a machine. The American needs some time off tennis to get a normal life. Very rarely will you see her play for 2 or even 3 weeks consecutively. With smart scheduling, it ensures that she doesn't burn out, and her off court endeavours gives her breathing space to reinvigorate herself.

Number 5: Commitment

What else is there for someone who has won everything that can be won? Serena is an icon and inspiration, not only to the tennis world, but to the general public. By continuing to give the best at 32, she inspires people that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. Serena can very well drop her rackets and retire on her astronomical earnings, but she knows she can make a difference, and is willing to stay committed to continue to inspire.

What's next for Serena Williams?

With 17 Grand Slam titles now, it's difficult not to think about the fabled number, 22. Will Serena equal, or even overtake Steffi's record of 22 slam titles? And will Serena's body hold up for her to achieve this number? Let's face it. Tennis these days is more about fitness than shot-making. Racket technology has transformed the game into a gladiatorial fight of sorts. Serena's recovery is not as fast now, as evidenced in the Year-End Championships. However, she does enough to claim victory nevertheless. Can she do the same 2 years down at 34? I'm sure Serena is not thinking so far ahead at 22 titles, but one can only hope Serena continues to stay healthy, because tennis greats do not come along that often.

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