No one will ever say it publicly, but the best thing that happened to Serena Williams at Wimbledon this year was getting sick prior to a doubles matchup alongside her sister Venus on Monday.
The Williams duo was prepared to take on Kristina Barrios and Stefanie Voegele, but things never really got started because Serena came out of the locker room staggering and unable to execute even a simple serve.
Even though she tried to tough it out, the match was ultimately called when the Williams' sisters retired after three games. According to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, Serena was forced to withdraw due to a "viral illness."
She issued a statement through the WTA website explaining the decision to retire and apologizing to everyone involved for what happened.
I am heartbroken I'm not able to continue in the tournament. I thought I could rally this morning, because I really wanted to compete, but this bug just got the best of me. I want to thank my sister, Kristina, Stefanie and our teams for their support. We were all looking forward to a great match. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of the fans for their cheers and understanding.
Nothing that happened over the last three days at Wimbledon was what Serena wanted. She lost in the third round of singles competition to Alize Cornet, the third straight Grand Slam event she failed to make it past the fourth round, and was completely uncoordinated due to her illness on Tuesday.
However, trying to put a positive spin on things, assuming this illness isn't anything that will linger, it's the best thing that could have happened to Serena. There was a moment on the court, when she was trying to play, where it was obvious it wouldn't happen when she started crying.
The simple interpretation is Serena just felt bad physically and it came pouring out of her, but knowing how competitive she is, it's not implausible to think that the weight of everything that's happened this year came crashing down on her.
We are talking about an athlete who has won 17 major championships unable to do a simple task like catching a ball being bounced to her from a line judge.
Being unable to do anything on a tennis court for however long the illness lingers—one week? two weeks? a month?—gives Serena a chance to just step away from everything. She doesn't have to answer questions about why she hasn't made it to the second week of a Grand Slam this year.
Instead, there's silence. They say silence can be deafening, but it can also be a relief. It's a reprieve from all the articles that will be written about Serena's demise, which is something we always tend to talk about with tennis players over the age of 30.
Now, she can take the time needed to get ready for the U.S. Open at the end of August. She will, barring some kind of unforeseen setback, play before that event, but the only remaining 2014 event that matters on the calendar is America's championship.
Serena's big break came at the U.S. Open 15 years ago, when she defeated Martina Hingis at the age of 17. She has won here each of the last two years with the 2013 title being her last appearance in a Grand Slam final.
If there's one event where Serena can salvage her season, which hasn't been all bad with three singles titles, it's the U.S. Open. She's got all that she needs to clear her head and be ready to remind the world why her name is atop the rankings.
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