It seems as if every time Serena Williams enters a Grand Slam, she is unprepared, having not played in smaller lead-up tournaments. But she proves all the naysayers wrong by miraculously making it to the finals and winning. That was not the case in the 2012 Australian Open.
Williams lost her fourth round match to Russian Ekaterina Makarova (the No. 56 player in the world) 6-2, 6-3. It was a sloppy, tough match for Williams all around, as she hit seven double faults, 37 unforced errors and had a first-serve percentage just over 50. Having won five Australian Open titles, with a record of 54-7 in Melbourne, it was shocking to see her exit the tournament this early, even if she had a sore ankle.
Coming off of her stunning loss to Sam Stosur in the 2011 US Open final, Williams has only played in two competitive matches prior to beginning her campaign at the Australian Open. This raises questions regarding conditioning for professional tennis players. As the men on the ATP circuit fight to shorten their season, afflicted by injuries, the women must also consider conditioning and the amount of matches that they play.
Serena Williams has always relied on her strength and natural gifted play to overcome her lack of conditioning and match experience throughout the year. However, at the age of 30, she may just need to change her means of preparation for Grand Slams. With more young female players vying for titles, Williams needs to be as fit as possible in order to keep winning Grand Slams.
At the end of the day though, each and every time Serena Williams enters a Grand Slam draw, she is a favorite to win, no matter her ranking. Seeing as there is a curse on every No. 1 female tennis player, where they struggle to retain their ranking and win Grand Slams, Williams can still stay in the race. If she recovers quickly and puts effort into conditioning, she may just come back with a vengeance.