Serena Williams once again fell short at the Australian Open in Melbourne, this time in the fourth round at the hands of Ana Ivanovic, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6.
As last season taught us, the loss means little.
Sure, it hurts that Williams' bid for her sixth win in Melbourne fell short. It also continues her streak of losses there that started after her win in 2010 and kills any hopes of her becoming the first female since 1988 to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year, as BBC Sport noted before her collapse:
Serena Williams can become the first woman since 1988 to win four Grand Slams in the same year, her coach believes. http://t.co/A484Y8nbxd— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 9, 2014
Williams admitted defeat in this admirable pursuit, per Justin Bergman of the Associated Press: "I have given up on that a long time ago. Maybe I can win four in a row, but it seems like in the one year it's kind of difficult for me, for whatever reason."
For Williams to acknowledge that must sting, but it was around this time one year ago when Williams' world was supposedly caving in on itself after being eliminated by Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals at Melbourne.
Williams went on to win 11 of the 16 singles tournaments she entered, notched a 34-match win streak, appeared in 13 finals, ran up a 78-4 overall record, accumulated more than $12 million in winnings (a women's record), finished No. 1 in the WTA rankings and was named the Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Year.
Now 15 seasons removed from her first major title in 1999, the 32-year-old Williams obviously has what it takes to bounce back from a loss in the tournament that has clearly become her unluckiest event.
Clay-court season is on the distant approach. Last season, Williams took down Maria Sharapova in the final at Madrid and later embarrassed archrival Victoria Azarenka in the final of the Rome Masters.
Williams has plenty of time between now and the next significant tournament to rest and heal, a noteworthy development given that she reportedly suffered an injury that may have played a role in her loss to Ivanovic, according to Matt Cronin of Tennis.com:
Serena’s coach Mouratoglou credits Ivanovic w/ playing very well, pressuring Serena but Williams couldnt move forward & attack like normal— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) January 19, 2014
Serena suffered 'blocked' back injury in practice prior 2 match v Hantuchova. Almost pulled out. Movement was restricted then & today— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) January 19, 2014
While injuries seem to be more and more of an issue for Williams, they are to be expected at this stage of her career. While on the mend, Williams will of course use the unexpected time off to better mentally prepare herself for the rest of the season, as ESPN's Louis Riddick recently tweeted:
"Every time I lose, I feel like I get better." - Serena Williams.>>>Love that mindset!— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) January 19, 2014
Williams has faced this sort of adversity before and come out better in the end. Last year is the perfect example, and like 2013, there is not one name this year in the world of women's tennis who appears to have a guaranteed win when she steps on the court with Williams.
A loss at Melbourne hurts, but Williams is just getting started. By the end of yet another stellar season for her, this setback will be but a speed bump and a distant memory.