After a disappointing performance at Wimbledon, this week Serena Williams will compete in Bastad Sweden at The Collector Swedish Open.
Her fourth-round loss at Wimbledon was only her third loss of the 2013 season, with an impressive record so far of 46-3.
In typical Serena fashion, her decision to compete this week in Bastad is a bit surprising. The Swedish Open is only an "International-level" event.
This means that there is less prize money, fewer ranking points and a drastically minimized number of top-level opponents. In fact, Serena will be the only player in the Top 20 on the WTA Rankings that will be competing this week.
Most of the other top players are taking a well deserved break after a long clay-court season that is immediately followed by a physically grueling few weeks on grass courts. Serena is followed in the seedings by Simona Halep (seeded No. 2, ranked No. 30).
With no ranking points to defend this week, and an already impressive accumulation of 7,240 points this season, a question mark looms over Serena's participation this week. Why compete?
The Swedish Open is a clay-court tournament, the last of 2013. However, it lingers in the schedule behind the rest of the clay-court season which ended weeks ago with Serena's victory at Roland Garros.
With dismal results on grass this year, and a looming U.S. hard-court season just ahead—why turn back to clay?
After the heartbreaking Wimbledon loss and with monumental wins this year at Charleston, Rome, Madrid and the French Open (all on clay)—perhaps Williams is looking for one last boost of confidence heading into the Hard Court season?
Doubtful—Serena is the defending U.S. Open Champion and "Queen of the hard courts" for her generation. Her confidence is usually peaking at this point of the season.
So, perhaps Serena is being offered a substantial "appearance fee" for participating in the small tournament?
Maybe, but with $4,786,086 already in the bank this year, and $46,583,995 in her career (prize earnings alone), what amount could possibly be impressive enough for Williams to oddly change her season and potentially slow her momentum on hard courts?
Again, doubtful that money is the reason.
In Williams' career, she has never won a small International-level tournament. Her 52 career titles have all come on larger stages at the Grand Slams, and Premier-level events.
She has played only five International-level events in her career and has yet to win a title; in fact, she has never been able to even reach a final. Is her motivation to finally conquer the small stage, and leave no achievement in tennis unaccomplished?
Even this reasoning, which is perhaps the most rational sell, is hard to buy.
Williams has long been vocal and upfront about her goals of winning Grand Slam tournaments, and at 31—that is solely where her focus seems to stay. Winning a smaller-level tournament, and not having to even play another Top-20 opponent won't make a difference in Williams' resume of 16 Grand Slam singles titles.
The answer may actually be more simple, more obvious, more "Serena."
She's competing because she wants to.
Perhaps her 30s will be a bit less focused on career achievements and accolades and more tuned into the life experiences Williams wants to collect as she enjoys the last years of an unprecedented career.