by Karen 

Usually in order not to be a jinx many players play down their accomplishments just to be able to lower expectations.  It is sometimes a way to keep the nerves at bay and also something of an anti-jinx.  Even to those players who are not overly superstitious, the not looking too far ahead has become something that they have become quite adept at.  In the case of Serena Williams however, I don’t think either her or members of her team can not look ahead in terms of Grand Slam counting. 

On Saturday in Melbourne, Serena Williams rewrote her history one more time by clinching the Australian Open title in a straight set affair over Maria Sharapova.  The final score was 6-3, 7-6(5) and while the score will be forever etched in history, the match itself was much more than that. 

Coming into the finals, the stat sheet told a tale of two players playing at roughly the same level.  Serena however was playing the cleaner more forceful tennis.  Her winners to unforced errors off the ground, despite her being ill over the pass two weeks showed that despite struggling through matches she was still able to hit her opponents off the ground.  Maria Sharapova on the other hand while having an easier time of it was struggling in her matches as her stat sheet was covered with more unforced errors than Serena’s.  It was a stat that many needed to keep in mind as the final showdown loomed. 

Many commentators unfairly focus on Serena’s serve, and Sharapova herself seemed to be of the view that if it were not for Serena’s serve she would have maybe, possibly, perhaps have had a chance in the match.  If that is the case that Serena’s serve kept her in the match and ultimately won her the title, then consider this:  Sharapova had a higher first serve percentage than Serena.  Sharapova also won more points on her second serve than Serena and finally Sharapova was averaging higher serve speeds than Serena.   Here is a link to the final match stats for both women.  As can be seen that apart from the speed of the first serve, Sharapova’s serve stats outpaced Serena’s.  In any event, I think the time has come where credit is given to Serena’s all around game rather than her power and her serve.  

Where does Sharapova go from here?  Since her father has taken a backseat to being her coach, Sharapova has had at least 3 or 4 coaching changes.  None have been able to figure out or tell her how to beat Serena.  I am sure she has watched videos of how her fellow pros have been able to beat Serena, but I think for now we can all agree that this non-rivalry rivalry has become about the residence that Serena has taken up in Sharapova’s head.  The law of averages states that at some point Sharapova will get her next win, but from where I am sitting I don’t see that happening. 

As for Serena, what words are there left to say about this incredible champion.  In her champion’s speech she spoke about being a little girl going on a tennis court with a racquet, a ball and a hope.  It has been many years since those days and Serena at times still comes across as that little girl with a racquet, a ball and a hope.  She has given hope to many young players out there who don’t have the means to get into this sport or any sport, but one would hope that they have taken inspiration from this girl from the rough streets of Compton to realise their dreams and know that it does not take cash to achieve your dreams but hard work and hope. 

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