Will Serena Williams win another Grand Slam?
A few months ago, that question would have been considered absurd. Williams, winner of 17 Slams, completed a record-setting year in 2013. She went 78-4, won 11 titles, grabbed the No. 1 ranking and won two Grand Slams.
Matching Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18 Slams seemed inevitable. Talk surfaced about her reaching Steffi Graf's 22.
Graf told the Associated Press that Williams could even surpass Margaret Court's 24.
But now, suddenly, what seemed like a foregone conclusion has developed into a serious question: Can Williams win another Slam?
She has looked far less dominant this year. She has already lost as many matches this year as she did in 2013. She failed to advance beyond the fourth round at the Australian Open. She was upset in the second round at the French Open.
Perhaps more troublesome for Williams are the signs of fatigue.
After a dramatic comeback win against Li Na in the final of the Sony Open, Williams lost in the first round of the Family Circle Cup. In her post-match press conference, Williams told reporters she needed a break.
"I'm really just dead. I need some weeks off where I don't think about tennis and kind of regroup. I've had a long couple of years, and I'm really a little fatigued," she said.
She returned from her break and played in Madrid. However, she withdrew in the quarterfinals due to a leg injury. She rebounded in Rome, where she defeated Sara Errani in the final.
Williams has been so dominant on the WTA Tour. No active female player has a comparable career. Roger Federer, however, boasts a strikingly similar one. The two were born within months of each other and both are stuck at 17 Slams.
Federer dominated the field earlier in his career, but as his game has declined, he's struggled against the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Williams faced stiffer competition earlier in her career, mainly from her sister Venus. She also competed against future Hall of Famers Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Williams has winning records against Henin (8-6), Venus (14-10) and Clijsters (7-2).
However, she never dominated those three the way she does today's top players.
Federer once seemed unstoppable too. That was until Rafa and Djokovic started beating him regularly. In 2012, Federer won Wimbledon and quieted some of the chatter about his pending demise. The following year, Federer suffered through a horrendous slump.
He has managed to climb back into the top five and win occasional tournaments, but Federer is no longer a favorite to win a Slam.
Could Williams suffer through the same type of slump in 2014? Perhaps, like Federer, Williams has hit a wall.
Wimbledon will serve as a barometer. In 2012, the last time Williams lost early at the French Open, she went on to claim her fifth Wimbledon title.
Unlike Federer, Williams remains the player to beat at Wimbledon. She will arrive in London without having played in any tournaments since Roland Garros.
No exhibitions or grass-court warm-ups for Williams. It's as if she's grown bored with tune-up tournaments. Perhaps even premier events seem irrelevant when her legacy is on the line.
Her focus is on adding more Slams. She's broken enough prize-money records. She's won a career Slam and two "golden" Slams. She's chasing history now. She's answered every question regarding her play against the current field of competitors.
There's still one question, though. Yes, the same question that seemed silly last year but is valid now: Can she win one more?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!