Skipping Final WTA Tournaments Is a No-Brainer for Serena Williams

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2015

Serena Williams waves to the crowd after losing in the semifinals of the 2015 U.S. Open.
Serena Williams waves to the crowd after losing in the semifinals of the 2015 U.S. Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Serena Williams' decision to withdraw from the China Open in Beijing and the WTA Finals in Singapore effectively ended her season. Good for her.

Williams released a statement, via the WTA Tour website, citing recovery from injuries and a broken heart as reasons for shutting down her season.

It's no secret I've played injured most of the year - whether it was my elbow, my knee, or, in the final moments after a certain match in Flushing, my heart...I want to compete as well as I can, as long as I can. So I'm taking a proactive step and withdrawing from tournaments in Beijing and Singapore to properly address my health and take the time to heal.

Earlier this week, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou told ESPNW that Williams lacked the motivation to play in those tournaments: "But after this year and the three Grand Slams [she won in 2015], the question is how high her motivation is to play those tournaments. I don't think she should play if the motivation is not really high."

Regardless of motivation, Williams has little to gain by playing in China or Singapore. She's already nailed down the No. 1 ranking for the rest of the year. She has only 215 points to defend in Beijing. She earned 1,350 points in last year's WTA Finals. However, she has more than a 4,000-point lead over No. 2 Simona Halep. 

Although the China Open is a premier tournament and the WTA Finals have developed into an entertaining event to close out the year, they are all but meaningless as criteria considered for Greatest of All Time. 

Of course people are curious about her next move. But are folks really surprised that she's done for the year?

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Williams has four notable milestones she's yet to accomplish in her career. She hasn't completed a calendar-year Slam or a Golden Slam (Calendar Slam with Olympics gold in same year). She also has Graf's 22 and Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam titles to overcome, with 21 Grand Slam wins herself.

She came within two matches of achieving the calendar-year Slam. To have gotten that close only to come up short has to hurt. In his interview with ESPNW, Mouratoglou suggested that Williams was taking the loss hard.

As with all painful losses, Williams needs time to proceed through the stages of grief. Immediately after the loss, Williams appeared to be in denial and taking a C'est la vie approach. Now that she's admitting the need for emotional and physical healing, she's on her way to recovery. 

The absence of the No. 1 player from the entire Asian swing is a big blow to the WTA. However, it's hardly a major setback for Williams, as some have suggested. 

Tennis magazine and ESPN writer Peter Bodo went as far to suggest that by ending her season early, Williams could endanger her legacy. 

So what if Williams, who is now unlikely to join Graf and Court as a Grand Slammer, doesn't get that 22nd major (never mind matching or equaling Court's all-time record of 24 major titles)? There surely will be rethinking of the pecking order on tennis Olympus. Our eyes may tell us Williams is the greatest player ever, but every generation has different eyes and the next one will see this one mostly through statistics.

Actually, the next generation will be able to see this generation of players on YouTube or some other social media video site. Unlike in the wooden-racket days of tennis, there's plenty of footage of Williams beating people over the past couple of decades.

This generation worships statistics and still has enough sense to dismiss Court's 24 Grand Slam titles as making her a superior player to Graf. 

Serena Williams takes the court at the IPTL match at the end of 2014.
Serena Williams takes the court at the IPTL match at the end of 2014.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Williams may be judged based on how she dominated the tour. Future generations may compare head-to-head records and winning percentages in Grand Slams. What won't be considered are two tournaments Williams missed after winning four Grand Slams in a row. 

Ten years from now, it's unlikely that anybody will even remember Beijing and Singapore. Heck, with Williams out, people might forget them this year. 

She remains listed as a member of the Manila Mavericks of the International Premier Tennis League. She mentioned practicing and playing some exhibitions later this year. That's a good way to work in match play with little to no pressure. 

Last year, Williams appeared to enjoy herself in the IPTL. She even skipped Brisbane and opted to play in the exhibition Hopman Cup

That type of pressure-less preparation worked well for her last year. Fun is exactly what she needs. Then she can focus on winning Slams. 

The only thing that could top winning a calendar-year Slam is winning it and a gold medal in the same year. 

That's up for grabs in 2016. That's the type of motivation Mouratoglou's talking about. So if Williams felt a need to skip the 2015 Asian swing so she can come out swinging in Australia in 2016, good for her.