How Much Did Wimbledon Close the Gap Between Serena Williams and Everyone Else?
Wimbledon was a thrilling tournament for many people and players, including frequent favorite Serena Williams.
Unfortunately for the American, her run was ended in the fourth round by German Sabine Lisicki.
Serena seemed to be in one of the best rhythms of her entire career and was clearly the most dominant athlete on the tour for most of the 2013 season.
It seems that these dominant athletes are perhaps losing a little bit of their edge, also exhibited by what occurred on the men's side of the event.
So based on what we saw at Wimbledon, will Serena still be way ahead of the curve, or are her opponents catching up?
Serena's History of Bouncing Back
Many times in the past four or five years, Serena Williams has been upset in very unexpected and sudden ways. Her longevity has also been questioned because of nagging injuries that have occurred in her career, and many have taken her out of action entirely due to their severity.
In the most recent instance of the star rebounding in fine fashion, she lost in the first round of a major for the first, and probably last, time. This was, of course, at the 2012 French Open to a very low-ranked player.
It seemed that she was down and out and at the last leg of her career, but that thought only made her better.
Three major titles, two Olympic gold medals and several WTA 1000 wins later, she would only be labeled as the favorite on her road to Wimbledon.
She had a mishap at the Australian Open but was flawless in all other matches, even earning a second French Open trophy.
We must wait another eight tournaments or so until we can even establish if she has truly fallen off.
Though she has been the best player in the world all season, she did reveal a sense of vulnerability in her match against Lisicki.
She easily and quickly gave up the first set, making matters much worse, even when she has previously been in a losing position and came back.
It seemed she did not know what to do after securing an early lead in the third set, and her mind let her down for one of the few times in her lifetime.
Should she not be mentally tough in the next two years, the gap will most certainly be diminishing.
Though her match against Lisicki was very much in her favor for the second and third sets, she hit a roadblock and resorted to a tentative and safe game plan.
Pushing backhands to the middle of the court and getting pushed around by the German, Serena did not look or play like her usual self.
Usually when she loses in big matches like that there are tons of unforced errors, as opposed to giving the opponent short balls. She definitely also had her fair share of errors in that match, but her loss was due to a conglomerate of things, including tentativeness.
I doubt she will do something like that again, but it meant that she was likely nervous.
An Inspired Opponent
Lisicki has been a giant killer at Wimbledon for three or four years now.
Her big serve, powerful ground strokes and mentality are all suited well for the grass court.
She does not have nearly as many top-10 wins in other tournaments and on other surfaces, but that is another story.
The German player had much tenacity and confidence in taking the court against the heavy favorite to win the title.
Her inspired play and run to the Wimbledon final will not be forgotten any time soon.
Venus Williams still has a firm grasp on the longest women's winning streak in the Open Era but sister Serena was very close to surpassing her record.
The No. 1-ranked player in the world was on a 34-match winning streak when it came time for her to play her fourth-round match.
This amazing streak made it both normal and unusual at the same time for a loss to occur.
Perhaps the big gap between Lisicki's and Serena's rankings—along with the fact that it was not even a quarterfinal match—means that Serena needs to go back to the drawing board and try to cut off players from catching up to her.
Battle of the Servers
The fact that Lisicki has an incredible serve should only help Serena's side of the argument.
There are only two or three players who actually have serves to rival hers. One that comes to mind is Sam Stosur, who actually beat Serena in two huge matches in Slams.
Even Petra Kvitova's serve is tricky enough to challenge Serena's game, but there are few low-ranked players who can actually serve her off the court.
And since Lisicki's ranking will likely be on the rise in the coming months, Serena will have more comfortable matches up until the (potential) last two or three.
Though Serena is the favorite to win every tournament, and the expectations for her performances are quite high, she will not be able to keep it up forever.
In fact, she may even retire in a couple of years—the world is uncertain, and we as fans and spectators do not know what is going on in her head at all times.
One very important point to consider is that she is going to turn 32 years old in just a few months.
Very few athletes have been able to be consistent day in, day out at an "old" age like this. With that idea in mind, it seems that the gap could be growing smaller and smaller every day.
When we consider her age, the circumstances of the match against Lisicki and her inability to finish off her opponent, we can think that the gap is closing between Serena and the rest of the field.
But when we point out that she only played one "poor" match, her opponent was inspired and ready to go on a big run, her winning streak was bound to end somewhere and she played someone who would evolve into a top player with a huge game, it makes sense to say that this was a one-time thing.
She has bounced back many times before and still appears healthy, so I say we wait until the year's conclusion before counting Serena out.
And as for the rest of the field, they should have more confidence going into matches against the champion but recognize that they can still lose when executing brilliantly.
Against a giant like Serena Williams, the only thing a tennis player can do is hope for the best—and even that can be difficult.