Today’s guest post is courtesy of Malek Murison.
As a general rule, in high level sport, the margins between victory and defeat are incredibly fine, with mistakes or moments of brilliance often enough to decide close contests. This is never truer than at the Wimbledon Championships, where this year Serena Williams once again dominated the grass courts of South West London. However, unlike previous years, 2015 was arguably a tournament where mental attributes rather than tactical decisions propelled Serena toward the title.
A run of testing matches showed the importance of mental fortitude and will to win, alongside the power and skill we have come to expect from Williams, highlighting just how far grit and determination can take you in the modern game. This is not to say that Williams isn’t a tactically sound player – that would be a ridiculous claim about arguably the greatest player the women’s game has ever seen – but rather that it wasn’t necessarily that side of her game which dominated Wimbledon this year.
Let’s take a closer look at Williams’ route to glory. Her first real match of note was the third round encounter against home favourite Heather Watson. Roared on by a patriotic Centre Court crowd Watson took Williams to three sets, was at one stage a single point from going 4-0 up in the final set, and looked well on course to cause one of the biggest upsets in recent years. Williams herself said that Watson should have gone on to win the match, and yet for some reason she didn’t. Did Williams change her tactics to somehow come back against the odds? Not really. But what she did do was compete, and fiercely at that, literally screaming with fury at every ball. Sadly for Watson, in the end it was just too monumental a task to out-fight Serena, as Victoria Azarenka found out later in the quarter finals. Despite winning the first set, the former world number one from Belarus simply couldn’t maintain the intensity required to grind Serena Williams off the court.
The semi-final against Maria Sharapova has an interesting backstory, which perhaps shows us just how fierce a competitor Serena Williams is. Back in 2004 a 17-year old Sharapova beat Williams in the Wimbledon final, and since then Serena has won 17 of their head to heads in a row. For a player of Sharapova’s calibre to have such a poor record against Serena Williams is surprising to say the least. But perhaps it points to a deep lying motivation on the part of Williams to make up for that crushing defeat all those years ago, and to never again allow the Russian to get the better of her.
Credit goes to Williams because, In an increasingly competitive and exciting women’s game, the top seeds rarely all make it through the opening rounds unscathed. Yet Williams was able to come back from losing positions – no mean feat in a best of three set match – and her determination and sheer will to win ultimately overpowered her opponents just as much as her groundstrokes.