It seems the easiest thing to do in sports today is write off athletes, especially those who’ve suffered tough losses or gotten up in age. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. In our “expert opinions” these stars have dulled, and know longer have what it takes to perform at the elite level required for their sports. We judge them on how they look today, in the present, and that’s logical thinking, but you must consider that many of these shining stars were so far superior to their competition, that any decline must be fairly compared to the level of greatness that they had previously achieved. A fall from grace doesn’t mean you’ve fallen and can’t get up.
The winners at this year’s Wimbledon are prime examples of what I’m talking about.
First, there’s Serena Williams. Not only did she win Wimbledon for the fifth time in her career, but she did so in dominant fashion. She set a tournament record with 102 total aces, including a single match record of 24 in the semifinals against Victoria Azarenka. She gutted the hearts of her opponents with a brilliant service game and the strength and power fans have grown accustomed to seeing from one half of the most brilliant pair of siblings to every grace a tennis court.
The road, although paved with Grand Slam Championships, had several bumps recently for Serena. She battled personal troubles and illness the last two years, and even suffered a hematoma and pulmonary embolism while in rehab for an injured foot in early 2011. Her world ranking plummeted all the way to No. 12, and yes that’s a tumble for her. Already in her late 20′s and having accomplished so much in tennis, it was a prime time to write Serena off as finished. She was injured, getting older, and maybe even preoccupied with other endeavors outside the game.
I’m almost certain that the crow being eaten by some experts and observers right now tastes horrible. It can’t be what they expected. Serena Williams, who entered Wimbledon with two wins on the season, walked away victorious again, and did so in grand style. The ease with which she glided through the tournament was remarkable for a 30 year-old, who by tennis standards should be damn near washed up. The rest of the ladies on tour were put on notice that early reports of Serena’s demise were greatly exaggerated. That’s 14 Grand Slams and counting, and the way she played that number could keep rising.
She and Venus won the doubles championship as well. I could tell you a similar story about Venus, but maybe you’ll do research of your own about big sister.
Then there’s the living legend Roger Federer. Arguably the greatest player in men’s singles history, Federer in recent years has taken a back seat to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic atop the ATP rankings. The man who once dominated matches like few in history, was now being relegated to semifinal and final round losses, instead of Grand Slam victories. Roger, unlike Serena has been injury free for the majority of his career, so when the losses began to mount against the Spaniard and Serb, it was more about them cracking the code that was his greatness. The fact was that he hadn’t won a slam event in more than two years, the longest such drought of his pro career entering this years Wimbledon.
It became easy to write off Federer as a great former champion who’s time in the winners circle had past.
Clearly Federer didn’t get the memo that it was over, and instead chose to turn back the clock one more time in England. Yes, he had some good fortune with the early round loss of nemesis Nadal, but R Fed still had to defeat the other half of his rival duo in No.1 ranked Djokovic in the semifinals. I’m not a sports psychologists, but I can play one here on Halestormsports.com for fun, and in my opinion that win did wonders for his confidence. It was a major hurdle, and to be honest it may have been just as satisfying as the actual finals win over hometown hero Andy Murray.
The victory was Federer’s seventh at Wimbledon and catapulted him back to No.1 in the world. Write that off.
Now don’t get me wrong, as fans and observers of the games we love, we’re entitled to make judgments about the players involved. There’s nothing wrong with that, but before we consider closing the book on our great champions, I think it wise to have more indisputable evidence that the curtain has really dropped on their careers.