As I sat across from Serena William’s, I couldn’t help but notice how miserable she looked. She just entered the Aviva Centre to a rousing applause from the thousands of fans at the match to see her play. She snubbed them all, no smile, no wave, nothing. I’ve seen her in similar moods like this and she is very unpredictable. She can either self-destruct or become an unstoppable champion that she has been in the past.
She is getting older with a young child, a fairly recent marriage to and a well- earned fortune of $90+ million, retirement and sitting on a private beach in the Bahamas must be something on her mind. She doesn’t need to be here, she has nothing to prove, she has won it all and done it her own way.
As Serena finished walking to the court, she sat down and got her racquets ready, looked around expressionless and not interested to be in Toronto at the Rogers Cup. She was either in a serious zone and concentrating on her upcoming match with Elise Mertens of Belgium, or, wondering if she is really into playing such a big, gruelling, competitive WTA tennis schedule anymore.
Right from the opening serve she looked annoyed. The crowd hadn’t settled in yet and were still in a talkative mood as she was about to serve. The referee made an announcement requesting silence and silent it became. As she dribbled the ball with her racquet, it looked like she had never held a racquet before and she looked very awkward attempting it. The ball was rolling away from her and she was struggling for control. Her performance was really sloppy and she looked as if she was going out in straight sets as Mertens matched her every play and serve. Serena was serving at 184km/h and Mertens at 183km/h.
Just as Serena looked beat and retirement in the Bahamas was near, a young lady yelled out “c’mon Serena, you can do this, you’re the Queen of Tennis, a champion!” For the 1st time during the match, Serena paused and seemed to notice the woman and woke up.
Her 1st serve was drilled into the net with amazing force. I sat up a little higher in my seat as did the other photographers as we noticed the familiar growl of a waking lion. Her next serve was 198km/h and her game really turned around as she won a few straight games and eventually the 1st set 6-3.
She was back, getting angry and talking to herself, the crowd heard it, they knew she was back and ready to show the world she still has a place on this tour. She pretty much dominated the 2nd set and won that and the match 6-3 6-3, moving into the next round.
I really hope she doesn’t retire, it’s been a privilege photographing her over the years and I feel this is the last time I will get a chance to see her. Next year, the WTA Rogers Cup is in Montreal and 2021 will be the next Toronto stop. Serena would be nearing 40- years-old.
Just for the record, I was the only one talking retirement at the tournament. I think Queen Serena will need to be dethroned first, something great queens don’t enjoy doing.