Serena Williams looked stunningly mortal as she was bounced from the Australian Open by 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals.
No one expected Williams to exit the tournament that early, and the loss left some speculating that the 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 loss signaled a changing of the guard in American tennis.
That was not a changing of the guard. That was Serena's body failing her.
During that match, Serena tweaked her back. You can see her hobbling in this highlight video from the match.
There was a stretch of this match where Serena was basically serving at half speed. She couldn't get the lift to generate her massive power on her first serve. She was also stiff in her on-court movement.
Her back seemed to loosen as she progressed, but that didn't mean she was healthy. Earlier in the tournament, Serena tweaked her ankle, and it was apparently far from healed for her quarterfinal match.
Check out the pic Serena posted of her ankle the night after her loss.
How was she even playing on that ankle? If my ankle were that swollen I'd struggle to make it to my fridge from the couch, let alone play tennis.
It is a testament to how tuned Serena's game is right now that she could win any matches on that ankle.
However, those injuries will heal, and we are talking about a player who, prior to her loss in Australia, hadn't dropped a match since last Aug. 17 and hadn't lost in a major since last year's French Open.
Serena simply needs her body to cooperate, and she will win at least another major this season to add to her total of 15.
We can safely rule out Serena winning the next major: the French Open. The clay court is not tailored to her power game, and she has only won the French once and that was way back in 2002.
Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are another story. Serena won both last year, and she has won the two a combined nine times during her career. She will add to that total this season.
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