There is no tennis player who doesn’t go through the moment of vulnerability – that make or break phase. That phase of susceptibility which just doesn’t let you get into the groove, but still you need to find a way out.
In this context, there are two facets that clearly define what Serena Williams is all about.
First, the twinge, the grimace is all over her when she is down. We have seen it time and again, during her fabulous journey of 21 Grand Slams victories till date. Second, how she catapults herself and turns around that seemingly uncontrollable situation into a win. Its sheer delight to watch her script this transition. One such act was witnessed today as she got past Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the second round.
At a time when all eyes are on Williams to win this edition of the US Open and catch up with Steffi Graf for 22 Grand Slam titles, some of the routine stuff is being underestimated. Every single match takes a lot, and by no means a player’s potential can be discounted even as Williams is the hot favourite. The strapping Dutch woman exemplified the same. Though she failed to serve the set out at 5-4, and then let 4-0 lead in the first tie-break drift away, Bertens did trouble the top-ranked player.
As one would expect, Williams exhibited immense grit when it was needed. As much as she breaks the flow with relentless hitting, the fact her body language, her expressions become more evasive probably impacts Williams’ opponents, too. They clearly know Williams is not going to give up. A case in point, after hitting out with precision, Bertens came up with a feeble backhand at 5-5 in the tie-break. And then a fortuitous net-cord paved way for an error from the Dutch player, who eventually threw her racquet in pain.
By no means it’s easy to challenge Williams when she gains lead. Williams did close out with ease. Bertens probably played the match of her life, and would learn a great deal.
As for the champion, the weight of expectations is increasing. She knows the spotlight is on her, more than ever. And she seems to be ready for it, with her poise standing out. Next up its going to be Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round.