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Thought of the Day

Published:

Monday, August 24, 2009
Updated: August 26, 11:41 AM ET
All or nothing for Serena Williams 
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
No one in women's tennis has been as dominant as Serena Williams over the last two years; she has won three of the last four Grand Slam singles titles and will be the consensus favorite in the U.S. Open, which begins main-draw play Monday.
How, then, is it possible that she has failed to win any of her past 16 non-major tournaments? Elena Dementieva beat her for the fourth time in that streak on Saturday in a straight-sets semifinal victory at Toronto. Non-champions are admonished for not being able to win the big one. Lately, Serena -- and this is less a quibble than an observation -- can't win the little ones. Why, she hasn't won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in more than 16 months, since …
"… Charleston," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver last week, with impressive authority. "It's simple. She gets up for the big stage. Which, obviously, all of us would like to do. She focuses more, trains better, points toward them.
Tweet, tweet
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"Late in their careers, champions really start to focus on the Slams. Sampras is a really good example."
Indeed, after finishing as the ATP's No. 1-ranked player for six consecutive years, Pete Sampras won only one non-Grand Slam title in the last three years of his career -- but took home his seventh Wimbledon crown in 2000 and, most memorably, his fifth U.S. Open title in 2002 at the age of 31.
Talking about Roger Federer (and himself) earlier this year, Sampras told ESPN, "It's a human reaction to let down a little bit. It's so hard to be so good for so long. Eventually you lose a few matches, and you lose that edge. You win 12, 13, 14 majors and you go to Cincinnati and you just don't have that drive any more.
"It happens. It happened to me."
Serena's triumph over her sister Venus in the final at Wimbledon was her 11th major title. She is clearly moving into that mature period of narrow focus that Sampras and, to a large extent, Federer have experienced. Put another way, Serena's last three titles are all majors. Federer, by contrast, has won four titles this year, two of them majors.
She won't turn 28 until after the U.S. Open, so -- given the current landscape in women's tennis -- Serena would appear to have a few more prime years to approach or surpass those just ahead of her on the all-time singles majors list -- Billie Jean King (12), Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18).
It's hard to believe that Serena's very first major triumph came at the U.S. Open one decade ago at the precocious age of 17.
With a win in New York, Serena will have captured three of the four Grand Slam titles this year, something she has done only once -- in 2002, on her way to the Serena Slam that included the 2003 Australian Open.
All of which makes the non-Slam streak seem even stranger.
After winning the Australian Open -- with a resounding 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina -- Serena withdrew from the Paris event, citing a knee injury before her semifinal match with Dementieva. She won three matches in Dubai, losing to Venus in the semifinals, then avenged that loss in the Miami semifinals before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Including that uninspired straight-sets loss, Serena has won only six of 13 non-Slam matches -- and three of those victories came last week in Toronto. There were three consecutive one-and-dones in Marbella (Spain), Rome and Madrid. Although the last two matches were against worthy opponents, then-ranked No. 20 Patty Schnyder and No. 45 Francesca Schiavone, the loss in Marbella was to Klara Zakopalova, ranked No. 95.
A cynic might wonder if Serena was merely content to collect her appearance money and move on.
And then, with remarkable swiftness, Serena snapped into form and won 11 of 12 matches at the French Open and Wimbledon. After taking her third title at the All England Club, she was asked why she plays better in the big points. The answer helped explain her success in big matches.
"I love playing big points," Serena said. "I just love the opportunity to be pressured. Billie Jean King wrote once, 'Pressure is a privilege.' Being able to work with her on Fed Cup, she's really been able to help me understand that it's a privilege to feel that pressure."
Her most recent non-Slam outings have been uneven. Serena won two matches in Stanford before falling to Samantha Stosur in the quarters and then lost her second match in Cincinnati, to Sybille Bammer.
"I've never played a worse match in my life," said Serena, who committed 44 unforced errors and hinted that she was feeling ill. "I hit balls in the bottom of the net. Anyone could have beaten me today."
With a singles record of 38-10 in 2009, Serena seems likely to post the most single-season losses of her career since 1998, when she was 29-11.
Most Slam titles; active women
Serena and Venus Williams have won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles -- double the total of all the other women in the U.S. Open draw.
Player Grand Slam titles
Serena Williams 11
Venus Williams 7
Maria Sharapova 3
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2
Amelie Mauresmo 2
Ana Ivanovic 1
Kim Clijsters 1
As Shriver points out, since she's enjoyed relatively good health the past several years, Serena has been playing more Tour events than when she averaged fewer than 30 matches during 2005-07.
"What's good about it is she's played a lot of good tour stops in the last few years," Shriver said. "She's been better prepared for those majors. Those tour stops haven't been for naught."
The anti-Serena, of course, is Safina.
She has won seven WTA events in the last two years, but is still looking to collect her first career victory in a major. Safina has appeared in three of the past six Grand Slam singles finals but failed to convert, losing to Ana Ivanovic, Serena and, most recently, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the French Open final. Here overall consistency, however, has carried her to the No. 1 ranking; when she plays her first U.S. Open match she will have been on top for 20 consecutive weeks.
When Serena was asked at Wimbledon if she saw herself as the No. 1 player in the world, she smiled.
"I see myself as No. 2," she said. "That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."
That last remark drew laughter from the assembled media, but it was a window to her all-or-nothing philosophy. Grand Slams, at this stage of her career, are clearly all that matter.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Updated: August 26, 11:41 AM ET
All or nothing for Serena Williams 
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
No one in women's tennis has been as dominant as Serena Williams over the last two years; she has won three of the last four Grand Slam singles titles and will be the consensus favorite in the U.S. Open, which begins main-draw play Monday.
How, then, is it possible that she has failed to win any of her past 16 non-major tournaments? Elena Dementieva beat her for the fourth time in that streak on Saturday in a straight-sets semifinal victory at Toronto. Non-champions are admonished for not being able to win the big one. Lately, Serena -- and this is less a quibble than an observation -- can't win the little ones. Why, she hasn't won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in more than 16 months, since …
"… Charleston," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver last week, with impressive authority. "It's simple. She gets up for the big stage. Which, obviously, all of us would like to do. She focuses more, trains better, points toward them.
Tweet, tweet
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"Late in their careers, champions really start to focus on the Slams. Sampras is a really good example."
Indeed, after finishing as the ATP's No. 1-ranked player for six consecutive years, Pete Sampras won only one non-Grand Slam title in the last three years of his career -- but took home his seventh Wimbledon crown in 2000 and, most memorably, his fifth U.S. Open title in 2002 at the age of 31.
Talking about Roger Federer (and himself) earlier this year, Sampras told ESPN, "It's a human reaction to let down a little bit. It's so hard to be so good for so long. Eventually you lose a few matches, and you lose that edge. You win 12, 13, 14 majors and you go to Cincinnati and you just don't have that drive any more.
"It happens. It happened to me."
Serena's triumph over her sister Venus in the final at Wimbledon was her 11th major title. She is clearly moving into that mature period of narrow focus that Sampras and, to a large extent, Federer have experienced. Put another way, Serena's last three titles are all majors. Federer, by contrast, has won four titles this year, two of them majors.
She won't turn 28 until after the U.S. Open, so -- given the current landscape in women's tennis -- Serena would appear to have a few more prime years to approach or surpass those just ahead of her on the all-time singles majors list -- Billie Jean King (12), Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18).
It's hard to believe that Serena's very first major triumph came at the U.S. Open one decade ago at the precocious age of 17.
With a win in New York, Serena will have captured three of the four Grand Slam titles this year, something she has done only once -- in 2002, on her way to the Serena Slam that included the 2003 Australian Open.
All of which makes the non-Slam streak seem even stranger.
After winning the Australian Open -- with a resounding 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina -- Serena withdrew from the Paris event, citing a knee injury before her semifinal match with Dementieva. She won three matches in Dubai, losing to Venus in the semifinals, then avenged that loss in the Miami semifinals before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Including that uninspired straight-sets loss, Serena has won only six of 13 non-Slam matches -- and three of those victories came last week in Toronto. There were three consecutive one-and-dones in Marbella (Spain), Rome and Madrid. Although the last two matches were against worthy opponents, then-ranked No. 20 Patty Schnyder and No. 45 Francesca Schiavone, the loss in Marbella was to Klara Zakopalova, ranked No. 95.
A cynic might wonder if Serena was merely content to collect her appearance money and move on.
And then, with remarkable swiftness, Serena snapped into form and won 11 of 12 matches at the French Open and Wimbledon. After taking her third title at the All England Club, she was asked why she plays better in the big points. The answer helped explain her success in big matches.
"I love playing big points," Serena said. "I just love the opportunity to be pressured. Billie Jean King wrote once, 'Pressure is a privilege.' Being able to work with her on Fed Cup, she's really been able to help me understand that it's a privilege to feel that pressure."
Her most recent non-Slam outings have been uneven. Serena won two matches in Stanford before falling to Samantha Stosur in the quarters and then lost her second match in Cincinnati, to Sybille Bammer.
"I've never played a worse match in my life," said Serena, who committed 44 unforced errors and hinted that she was feeling ill. "I hit balls in the bottom of the net. Anyone could have beaten me today."
With a singles record of 38-10 in 2009, Serena seems likely to post the most single-season losses of her career since 1998, when she was 29-11.
Most Slam titles; active women
Serena and Venus Williams have won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles -- double the total of all the other women in the U.S. Open draw.
Player Grand Slam titles
Serena Williams 11
Venus Williams 7
Maria Sharapova 3
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2
Amelie Mauresmo 2
Ana Ivanovic 1
Kim Clijsters 1
As Shriver points out, since she's enjoyed relatively good health the past several years, Serena has been playing more Tour events than when she averaged fewer than 30 matches during 2005-07.
"What's good about it is she's played a lot of good tour stops in the last few years," Shriver said. "She's been better prepared for those majors. Those tour stops haven't been for naught."
The anti-Serena, of course, is Safina.
She has won seven WTA events in the last two years, but is still looking to collect her first career victory in a major. Safina has appeared in three of the past six Grand Slam singles finals but failed to convert, losing to Ana Ivanovic, Serena and, most recently, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the French Open final. Here overall consistency, however, has carried her to the No. 1 ranking; when she plays her first U.S. Open match she will have been on top for 20 consecutive weeks.
When Serena was asked at Wimbledon if she saw herself as the No. 1 player in the world, she smiled.
"I see myself as No. 2," she said. "That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."
That last remark drew laughter from the assembled media, but it was a window to her all-or-nothing philosophy. Grand Slams, at this stage of her career, are clearly all that matter.

 

Monday, August 24, 2009
Updated: August 26, 11:41 AM ET
All or nothing for Serena Williams 
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
No one in women's tennis has been as dominant as Serena Williams over the last two years; she has won three of the last four Grand Slam singles titles and will be the consensus favorite in the U.S. Open, which begins main-draw play Monday.
How, then, is it possible that she has failed to win any of her past 16 non-major tournaments? Elena Dementieva beat her for the fourth time in that streak on Saturday in a straight-sets semifinal victory at Toronto. Non-champions are admonished for not being able to win the big one. Lately, Serena -- and this is less a quibble than an observation -- can't win the little ones. Why, she hasn't won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in more than 16 months, since …
"… Charleston," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver last week, with impressive authority. "It's simple. She gets up for the big stage. Which, obviously, all of us would like to do. She focuses more, trains better, points toward them.
Tweet, tweet
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"Late in their careers, champions really start to focus on the Slams. Sampras is a really good example."
Indeed, after finishing as the ATP's No. 1-ranked player for six consecutive years, Pete Sampras won only one non-Grand Slam title in the last three years of his career -- but took home his seventh Wimbledon crown in 2000 and, most memorably, his fifth U.S. Open title in 2002 at the age of 31.
Talking about Roger Federer (and himself) earlier this year, Sampras told ESPN, "It's a human reaction to let down a little bit. It's so hard to be so good for so long. Eventually you lose a few matches, and you lose that edge. You win 12, 13, 14 majors and you go to Cincinnati and you just don't have that drive any more.
"It happens. It happened to me."
Serena's triumph over her sister Venus in the final at Wimbledon was her 11th major title. She is clearly moving into that mature period of narrow focus that Sampras and, to a large extent, Federer have experienced. Put another way, Serena's last three titles are all majors. Federer, by contrast, has won four titles this year, two of them majors.
She won't turn 28 until after the U.S. Open, so -- given the current landscape in women's tennis -- Serena would appear to have a few more prime years to approach or surpass those just ahead of her on the all-time singles majors list -- Billie Jean King (12), Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18).
It's hard to believe that Serena's very first major triumph came at the U.S. Open one decade ago at the precocious age of 17.
With a win in New York, Serena will have captured three of the four Grand Slam titles this year, something she has done only once -- in 2002, on her way to the Serena Slam that included the 2003 Australian Open.
All of which makes the non-Slam streak seem even stranger.
After winning the Australian Open -- with a resounding 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina -- Serena withdrew from the Paris event, citing a knee injury before her semifinal match with Dementieva. She won three matches in Dubai, losing to Venus in the semifinals, then avenged that loss in the Miami semifinals before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Including that uninspired straight-sets loss, Serena has won only six of 13 non-Slam matches -- and three of those victories came last week in Toronto. There were three consecutive one-and-dones in Marbella (Spain), Rome and Madrid. Although the last two matches were against worthy opponents, then-ranked No. 20 Patty Schnyder and No. 45 Francesca Schiavone, the loss in Marbella was to Klara Zakopalova, ranked No. 95.
A cynic might wonder if Serena was merely content to collect her appearance money and move on.
And then, with remarkable swiftness, Serena snapped into form and won 11 of 12 matches at the French Open and Wimbledon. After taking her third title at the All England Club, she was asked why she plays better in the big points. The answer helped explain her success in big matches.
"I love playing big points," Serena said. "I just love the opportunity to be pressured. Billie Jean King wrote once, 'Pressure is a privilege.' Being able to work with her on Fed Cup, she's really been able to help me understand that it's a privilege to feel that pressure."
Her most recent non-Slam outings have been uneven. Serena won two matches in Stanford before falling to Samantha Stosur in the quarters and then lost her second match in Cincinnati, to Sybille Bammer.
"I've never played a worse match in my life," said Serena, who committed 44 unforced errors and hinted that she was feeling ill. "I hit balls in the bottom of the net. Anyone could have beaten me today."
With a singles record of 38-10 in 2009, Serena seems likely to post the most single-season losses of her career since 1998, when she was 29-11.
Most Slam titles; active women
Serena and Venus Williams have won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles -- double the total of all the other women in the U.S. Open draw.
Player Grand Slam titles
Serena Williams 11
Venus Williams 7
Maria Sharapova 3
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2
Amelie Mauresmo 2
Ana Ivanovic 1
Kim Clijsters 1
As Shriver points out, since she's enjoyed relatively good health the past several years, Serena has been playing more Tour events than when she averaged fewer than 30 matches during 2005-07.
"What's good about it is she's played a lot of good tour stops in the last few years," Shriver said. "She's been better prepared for those majors. Those tour stops haven't been for naught."
The anti-Serena, of course, is Safina.
She has won seven WTA events in the last two years, but is still looking to collect her first career victory in a major. Safina has appeared in three of the past six Grand Slam singles finals but failed to convert, losing to Ana Ivanovic, Serena and, most recently, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the French Open final. Here overall consistency, however, has carried her to the No. 1 ranking; when she plays her first U.S. Open match she will have been on top for 20 consecutive weeks.
When Serena was asked at Wimbledon if she saw herself as the No. 1 player in the world, she smiled.
"I see myself as No. 2," she said. "That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."
That last remark drew laughter from the assembled media, but it was a window to her all-or-nothing philosophy. Grand Slams, at this stage of her career, are clearly all that matter.

 

Monday, August 24, 2009
Updated: August 26, 11:41 AM ET
All or nothing for Serena Williams 
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
No one in women's tennis has been as dominant as Serena Williams over the last two years; she has won three of the last four Grand Slam singles titles and will be the consensus favorite in the U.S. Open, which begins main-draw play Monday.
How, then, is it possible that she has failed to win any of her past 16 non-major tournaments? Elena Dementieva beat her for the fourth time in that streak on Saturday in a straight-sets semifinal victory at Toronto. Non-champions are admonished for not being able to win the big one. Lately, Serena -- and this is less a quibble than an observation -- can't win the little ones. Why, she hasn't won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in more than 16 months, since …
"… Charleston," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver last week, with impressive authority. "It's simple. She gets up for the big stage. Which, obviously, all of us would like to do. She focuses more, trains better, points toward them.
Tweet, tweet
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"Late in their careers, champions really start to focus on the Slams. Sampras is a really good example."
Indeed, after finishing as the ATP's No. 1-ranked player for six consecutive years, Pete Sampras won only one non-Grand Slam title in the last three years of his career -- but took home his seventh Wimbledon crown in 2000 and, most memorably, his fifth U.S. Open title in 2002 at the age of 31.
Talking about Roger Federer (and himself) earlier this year, Sampras told ESPN, "It's a human reaction to let down a little bit. It's so hard to be so good for so long. Eventually you lose a few matches, and you lose that edge. You win 12, 13, 14 majors and you go to Cincinnati and you just don't have that drive any more.
"It happens. It happened to me."
Serena's triumph over her sister Venus in the final at Wimbledon was her 11th major title. She is clearly moving into that mature period of narrow focus that Sampras and, to a large extent, Federer have experienced. Put another way, Serena's last three titles are all majors. Federer, by contrast, has won four titles this year, two of them majors.
She won't turn 28 until after the U.S. Open, so -- given the current landscape in women's tennis -- Serena would appear to have a few more prime years to approach or surpass those just ahead of her on the all-time singles majors list -- Billie Jean King (12), Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18).
It's hard to believe that Serena's very first major triumph came at the U.S. Open one decade ago at the precocious age of 17.
With a win in New York, Serena will have captured three of the four Grand Slam titles this year, something she has done only once -- in 2002, on her way to the Serena Slam that included the 2003 Australian Open.
All of which makes the non-Slam streak seem even stranger.
After winning the Australian Open -- with a resounding 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina -- Serena withdrew from the Paris event, citing a knee injury before her semifinal match with Dementieva. She won three matches in Dubai, losing to Venus in the semifinals, then avenged that loss in the Miami semifinals before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Including that uninspired straight-sets loss, Serena has won only six of 13 non-Slam matches -- and three of those victories came last week in Toronto. There were three consecutive one-and-dones in Marbella (Spain), Rome and Madrid. Although the last two matches were against worthy opponents, then-ranked No. 20 Patty Schnyder and No. 45 Francesca Schiavone, the loss in Marbella was to Klara Zakopalova, ranked No. 95.
A cynic might wonder if Serena was merely content to collect her appearance money and move on.
And then, with remarkable swiftness, Serena snapped into form and won 11 of 12 matches at the French Open and Wimbledon. After taking her third title at the All England Club, she was asked why she plays better in the big points. The answer helped explain her success in big matches.
"I love playing big points," Serena said. "I just love the opportunity to be pressured. Billie Jean King wrote once, 'Pressure is a privilege.' Being able to work with her on Fed Cup, she's really been able to help me understand that it's a privilege to feel that pressure."
Her most recent non-Slam outings have been uneven. Serena won two matches in Stanford before falling to Samantha Stosur in the quarters and then lost her second match in Cincinnati, to Sybille Bammer.
"I've never played a worse match in my life," said Serena, who committed 44 unforced errors and hinted that she was feeling ill. "I hit balls in the bottom of the net. Anyone could have beaten me today."
With a singles record of 38-10 in 2009, Serena seems likely to post the most single-season losses of her career since 1998, when she was 29-11.
Most Slam titles; active women
Serena and Venus Williams have won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles -- double the total of all the other women in the U.S. Open draw.
Player Grand Slam titles
Serena Williams 11
Venus Williams 7
Maria Sharapova 3
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2
Amelie Mauresmo 2
Ana Ivanovic 1
Kim Clijsters 1
As Shriver points out, since she's enjoyed relatively good health the past several years, Serena has been playing more Tour events than when she averaged fewer than 30 matches during 2005-07.
"What's good about it is she's played a lot of good tour stops in the last few years," Shriver said. "She's been better prepared for those majors. Those tour stops haven't been for naught."
The anti-Serena, of course, is Safina.
She has won seven WTA events in the last two years, but is still looking to collect her first career victory in a major. Safina has appeared in three of the past six Grand Slam singles finals but failed to convert, losing to Ana Ivanovic, Serena and, most recently, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the French Open final. Here overall consistency, however, has carried her to the No. 1 ranking; when she plays her first U.S. Open match she will have been on top for 20 consecutive weeks.
When Serena was asked at Wimbledon if she saw herself as the No. 1 player in the world, she smiled.
"I see myself as No. 2," she said. "That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."
That last remark drew laughter from the assembled media, but it was a window to her all-or-nothing philosophy. Grand Slams, at this stage of her career, are clearly all that matter.

"I have not been afraid of excess. Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit."

- William Somerset Maugham -

Entry #1,477

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