When Serena Williams steps on the court at the All England Club for this year's Wimbledon, she will be carrying the weight of her own shortcomings this season with her.
Fortunately, there are few players in the world better equipped to overcome past failures on this stage.
Despite having three singles titles under her belt in 2014, Williams has been off in the Grand Slam tournaments. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open and looked awful in the second round at the French Open.
After losing to Garbine Muguruza at Roland Garros, the five-time Wimbledon champion was left searching for answers to reporters in the post-match press conference, via CBSSports.com.
It was one of those days. You can't be on every day, and, gosh, I hate to be off during a Grand Slam. It happens, you know. It's not the end of the world. It is what it is...
I don't think anything worked for me today, which is just nothing really worked. I don't know anything that actually worked.
In the pre-Wimbledon press conference, Williams sounded a lot like an athlete who was still feeling the sting of those earlier embarrassments and was poised to do something about it, via SI.com's Beyond The Baseline.
Q: “How long did it take you to get over the French Open loss?” Serena Williams: [long pause] “Who says I’m over it?” #wimbledon— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 21, 2014
There have been various times in the past where Williams has gone through these kinds of slumps, leading to inevitable questions about whether or not she still had what it took to be the best player in the world.
Whenever those doubts creep in, Williams always rises to the challenge and proves everyone wrong. For instance, in 2004, when she was returning from an eight-month layoff for various reasons, then-top-ranked player Justine Henin wondered how long her reign at the top would continue, via Tom Fordyce of BBC Sport.
I don't think you can come off all that time not playing and come back and win everything. It's going to be difficult for her. I think that neither of them (Serena and Venus) will ever play 15 tournaments a year again, but to play 18 is not a lot for me. I am 21 years old and able to improve for many years to come.
That story is over. I don't even hear comments about Serena anymore.
After those comments came out, Serena proceeded to win the Nasdaq-100 Open event and play in the Wimbledon final before losing to Maria Sharapova.
Which aging star will have the best showing at Wimbledon?
Williams has the odds in her favor heading into Wimbledon, but the gap between her and the rest of the field appears to be closer than ever. Sharapova, who is in the same quarter of the bracket as Williams, is riding high after winning the French Open two weeks ago.
That's just where she needs to be right now. When all the eyes are focused on her, the criticisms grow louder, and the pressure mounts. Parity allows for more coverage elsewhere, even though Williams will always be the lead story whenever she plays.
In the end, there's no reason to get bogged down in what has happened to Williams this season. She has fallen on hard times, which happens to athletes from time to time, but the resiliency displayed throughout her career speaks volumes about her mental toughness.
Wimbledon has been Williams' sanctuary, the one event she wants to win every year and where she rises to the challenge time after time. There's a reason she's won or been in the final at the All England Club seven times in her career.
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