By Sandra Harwitt
Serena Williams was on the ESPN set with Chris Evert and Pam Shriver chatting away after winning the Australian Open – her 19th Grand Slam title – on Saturday night. It was all going well – Evert didn’t seem upset that Williams had moved ahead of the 18 Grand Slam victories she gobbled up in her career. In fact, Williams said that Evert graciously told her early on at the tournament she was hoping that Serena was on course for No. 19 in Melbourne.
That’s about when Shriver dropped the unmentionable, that La Serena is now in line for a calendar Grand Slam in 2015. Let’s not forget she already has a Serena Slam – four in a row, just not in the same calendar season. Is it possible that Williams, at 33-years-old, could join that most elite of elite clubs this year? The answer to that is yes. But even for Williams, probably the best ever in the business, being capable of that achievement and doing it is another story. And getting her thinking about it won’t help, Pammy. Let’s just let it play out and then will see if Serena will be the first to achieve that accomplishment in the 21st Century. Take note: Serena’s won six Grand Slam titles since turning 30 – I’m impressed and fans should be, too. If there’s a secret ingredient to her 30-something success it might be in the story that Serena told in that ESPN interview that her mom, Oracene, told her when she turned 30 she’s only getting better and more capable. Obviously, she’s a good girl and believed mom. FYI: Neither Oracene or dad, Richard, made the trip to Australia — it’s the first time that Serena’s played a major without at least one parent in attendance.
As for Maria Sharapova, major kudos on a final well played. You showed great form, and if there was anyone else across the net but Serena…. Well no point in going there as that offers little consolation. Truth is, Serena was again in the way – she’s been in the way in every match the two have played since 2004. Sharapova, however, should hold her head up high – she has nothing to be embarrassed about in her performance. And better yet, Sharapova showed impeccable class in defeat, admitting she loves to play the game, loves to play against La Serena, and acknowledged that Serena was the better player on the day and deserved to win.
Both of these ladies are heading off to play Fed Cup next weekend – playing for their countries in order to work towards securing their spot in the 2016 Olympic Games. They want to be in Rio for the party – who wouldn’t want to be in Rio for a party – and one needs to show up at a few Fed Cup ties to get the nod.
The two most impressive players at the Australian Open after La Serena and Miss Maria were Americans Venus Williams and Madison Keys.
At 34, one year older than younger sis Serena, Venus seems in great form and ready to pull down some titles. Could she contend for a Grand Slam title? The answer is she could if everything fell in place, but it probably won’t happen. That said, if Venus stays healthy she should definitely be a factor at the other events of the year. She already pulled in the win at Auckland ahead of the Australian. Next stop is a trip to Argentina with Serena for Fed Cup and then off to Dubai to defend her title. She loves to play and we should relish every time she steps on court. As a final thought, after being this lanky lady her whole career it looks like Venus has added some muscle – not fat — to her frame and that can only help her fitness and durability.
It was 19-year-old Madison Keys who emerged as the up-and-coming player to keep a careful watch on this season. Keys journeyed to her first Grand Slam semifinal – she lost to La Serena and her heavy shotmaking made Sharapova’s seem light to Williams in the final. Keys, as I wrote earlier in the tournament, has great upside in regards to her talent. Currently working with Lindsay Davenport, this is a great combination that if it keeps going will keep Keys cool, calm and collected and with direction as she journeys towards the top of the tennis corporate ladder. There doesn’t seem to be a tennis pundit around that after watching Keys these two weeks doesn’t believe she is a future Grand Slam champion and should soon be a solid addition to the WTA Tour’s Top 10 list. FYI: Another upside to Keys as a player is she’s always been self-motivated towards the game. She also has two parents who are attorneys and are usually back home working.
It’s hard to know what to say to Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Genie Bouchard and Viktoria Azarenka. You’re the folks on the just lower rung behind Serena and Maria. You all have talent and have Grand Slam titles and/or final appearances already. But for now you’re going to have to take it up a notch-or-two, or maybe three, to have more of a chance to win at a major.