Serena Williams doesn’t just want to win at Wimbledon; she needs it.
The former world’s No. 1 already boasts four championships at the tournament, but never before has the tennis icon needed to prove herself.
Years ago, a victory over Yaroslava Shvedova would have been a cakewalk.
On Monday, it was a shootout.
After dropping the second set to the Russian, Williams had to scratch out a 7-5 win in the third set to advance to the quarterfinals.
The once unstoppable, unbeatable and unbreakable force that was women’s tennis now appears vulnerable.
In his commentary for BBC (via Boston Globe), tennis legend John McEnroe said of Williams, “She’s trying to go down as the best female player ever...she’s not moving as well as I’ve seen her in the past.”
Despite being the most physically dominant female tennis player in history, health issues have plagued the 30-year-old in recent years.
In fact, Williams spent most of 2011 away from the game after suffering a slew of health problems including an injured foot that required surgery, a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism.
Since returning to the game, Williams simply hasn’t looked the same.
Her trademark movement skills appear slower, although with Tuesday’s win over Petra Kvitova, she’s just two wins away from securing her fifth Wimbledon title.
After dominating the 2000s, the last few years of Williams’ career haven’t shined as brightly as when she was on top of the tennis world.
With over 500 career singles victories, it’s tough to criticize Williams for her recent performances.
However, like any athlete on the back end of his or her career, we tend to remember recent failures over prior success.
Take Tom Brady for instance.
He’s amassed great wealth, has a gorgeous supermodel wife and is a three-time Super Bowl champion. Ask any kid who grew up in the 2000s who the best quarterback was, and the answer will often be Brady.
However, ask any kid who grew up in the post-dynasty era, and the answer may ring differently.
That’s because Brady has been beaten in his last two Super Bowl trips, despite posting astronomical regular season numbers.
The luster of Tom Terrific has worn off a bit. People wonder whether he still can win the big one.
Like Brady, Williams is in the same position.
She’s won more prize money—$36,046,313—than any female tennis player in history.
She’s been on the cover of magazines, featured on numerous ESPN specials and is the face of the sport.
She could hang up her racquet today and live comfortably amongst her millions of dollars and bundles of trophies.
What she needs is a victory at Wimbledon to remind everyone of what she was, is and will forever be: a champion.