Serena Williams is still one of the top female tennis players in the world, but she cannot be successful if she is not healthy.
The American came into the 2013 Australian Open as the hottest player in tennis. She won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to end 2012 and also earned a gold medal in the London Olympics.
However, the latest tournament did not go according to plan. She dealt with an ankle injury in the first round, a back injury later on and eventually fell to 19-year-old Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals.
This was her worst performance since losing in the first round of the French Open.
While Williams is unlikely to use injuries as an excuse, it was clear that they affected her performance.
After winning the first set 6-3, she injured her back midway through the second set. She ended up dropping that set 5-7 and eventually lost the final set to lose the match.
In the first set, Williams was dominant with her serve. She actually won 20 points on her 24 serves despite only having one ace.
As the match went on, however, she was unable to be as strong in this category. It would be understandable if this was a result of her back issues.
She also had 48 total unforced errors compared to only six in the previous match.
By the end of the match, the veteran was smashing her racket on the court in anger.
Additionally, it seems like the ankle injury is worse than originally thought. Williams tweeted out a picture of her swollen ankle:
Ouch mob.li/_nxDCj— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) January 24, 2013
Ouch indeed. This certainly does not seem like something anyone should play on.
Although the next few weeks feature some interesting tournaments, the next Grand Slam is not until the French Open at the end of May.
Williams has already accomplished as much as almost anyone ever to play the sport. She does not need to prove anything by winning these smaller events.
The important thing right now is to make sure that she gets healthy. At 31 years old, it would not be smart to rush herself back to another event, where she could possibly hurt herself even more.
She must take some time off and give herself a chance to come back at full strength. Only then will she be able to get back to being the No. 1 player in the world.