Serena To Retire? Part 2 11


I am a huge Serena Williams fan.

Through it all, I have always felt she is really like a kid out there when playing.

During the matches she seems like an assassin. But underneath it all she has always seemed like a little kid to me.

Seeing her in victory I always see, on the outside, the joy of a little girl.

Looking deeper I see relief.

Relief that she has gotten through another. Relief from the emotional pain and expectations of the world.

She has played and competed like a champion.

But her matches are filled with so much pain. Emotional pain.

Every error, every call that goes against her. Every extended point that her opponent manages to win. She shows her pain.

I don’t suggest that any athlete is supposed to be “happy” when playing.

It is frequently a tough journey to get through the difficult moments.

It is tough.

Serena, though, gives off something else.

And I just have a feeling that she is at a point where it is just too much for the payoff.

The only time she shows her joy of competition is when she has won the last point.

The destination more than the journey.

So can an athlete keep playing when it is just about the last point?

The pressure to have to win can be brutal.

Every time she walks out there, she has to win.

Anything less is a massive failure.

Is it possible that she has had enough? That the wins are not worth the experience.

Sure, there is the all time grand slam championships record for women.

And the potential to win the calendar Grand Slam at this year’s US Open is there for her.

But sometimes an athlete realizes that it is not always about the win. It isn’t even about pushing through one more time.

Like the aging boxer that keeps getting up off the mat because that is just what they do. Until one day they say, “enough. No mas.”

Is winning enough to keep her playing?

As Nadal says, “do I need to win 10 French Opens?”

Serena, do you need to win more titles? Do you need to win the Grand Slam? Do you need the records? Or are you doing it for others?

I, for one, hope that Serena sits downs with those closest to her and with some of the greats of the game to process. Those who have walked away when they knew it was time.

To find out whether it will be enough to just play. Win or lose.

We who watch, of course, want to see her break the records. It is part of what makes sports so great. The new, never to be achieved again records.

I have already heard from people who say, “NO, first she has to win the US Open and tie Steffie Graf!”

I want that too.

And if she does we will say, she needs to win two more to tie Margaret Court’s 24 titles.

And then…she needs to win 25, to stand alone.

Let’s not forget that she is in 5th place in all time Grand Slam titles. Court has 64. Maybe Serena can pass Billie Jean and get into third place all time.

But for Serena, maybe Grand Slam be damned. Records be damned. Maybe she wants to be free of the pressure that the world puts on her.

Listen to the commentary. All the talk is about the wins.

But as a player it is not always about the wins. It is about enjoying being out there.

The masters have always said: “It isn’t about the destination. It is all about the journey.”

Thank you, Serena, for being an amazing champion.

You have made our tennis lives better with your heart.

But now, think about what you want. If you want those titles, I wish you luck and hope you can do it.

Brad Gilbert put it best…”keep it simple. It’s about the X’s and O’s. One point at a time.”

If it is not about that, being in the moment, then maybe it is time.


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11 thoughts on “Serena To Retire? Part 2

  • Jerry Lynch

    Hey Bob… I love your content and wonder if she is happy… win or lose. Losing is disappointing for all of us yet some lose and you still get the sense they are happy people. Serena is happy when she wins but losing ??? Being in the profession of athletics in various capacities for over a 40+year career, I believe that the media, the public, the fans add fuel and fan the fires of winning… the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, right? You don’t win Silver, you lose Gold, is an expression I’ve heard clients say. Runner ups in all sport are forgotten within a short period of time. Most…if not all sports… seem to be a vehicle for transporting those of us with dysfunctional backgrounds to a place where if we can only win, we may find that we are worthy, we are accepted, we are OK if we win. If not ,the losing reinforces that we are not OK… as athletes and in some cases as people which is even worse. Unfortunately, sport at most levels is mostly about winning, money, power and greed, the hallmarks of dysfunction, the very thing we all wish to escape. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the IOC, said that the most important thing is not winning but taking part. Competition is a word from the Latin, compatiere ( sp) which means “to seek together our greatness “( not to seek winning). There is greatness in losing. Some of my best competitive results were in loss. In fact, the 2500 year old ancient Chinese book of wisdom states: “We lose and in this way, win”. We have gotten off track, I would say. In fact, coming full circle, Serena is a winner regardless of the scoreboard…she just hasn’t found out yet because she chases the outcomes to measure her self worth. If she wins the Grand Slam in same year… she will then be a winner. NOW, am I right in saying this? Perhaps not…what do I know and how could I possibly be in her head OR heart.
    I have no answers BUT I observe what I say to be true/accurate for the majority of athletes, teams, coaches I have had the pleasure of helping over a 40 year span of time ( to include the 35 national championship teams I have had the honor of helping). Let’s seek together our collective greatness with each other, our opponents , countries, religions, cultures and all those we fight against to win… more oil, money, territory, games, slams, tournaments… whatever it may be. As the late, great John Lennon once said ( and I believe he suffered from the same dysfunctions) IMAGINE ALL OF US LIVING AS ONE… each using each other to find the greatness that lies within our heads, hearts, souls, bodies. OK… done for now and thanks for the opportunity to express these personal thoughts. Not right or wrong… just observations. Jerry Lynch http://www.wayofchampions.com

    • Bob Litwin Post author

      Jerry:
      Eloquently put. Thanks. I feel your support. Very few are on the same page with me on this. It seems to have triggered a lot of reactions.
      Billie Jean King once told me: “Bob, be sure to tell you clients that it is not about the winning. It is all about the journey. The work. The effort. The people you meet. The places you go.” I smugly replied, “that is easy for you to say, you have won 22 Wimbledon titles.” She wisely and simply responded, “that is why you should believe me. I have been to the top of the mountain and I know. The trophies are scattered on the hill behind me.”

  • Ed Schroback

    Geez Bob, you scared me with the subject line..I was playing a match and had not watched Serena’s match yet..I thought maybe Serena got injured or had a meltdown or something..Anyway..you describe it perfectly..Serena looks like she is in pain and not enjoying tennis..She needs you added as a coach to her team!

    • Bob Litwin Post author

      Ed: She has great team that has brought her this far with winning and I am sure they are wise. Wise enough I hope to bring in someone like Wilander. Not to convince her to stop but to help her process. I fear, a little, that her team wants her to achieve these extraordinary results. I hope they know the story of the golden goose.

  • judy r goldsmith

    I am glad you commented on “the women’s side”. It’s unusual for you to analyze that game. I’d like to hear more about it: sharapova, body image, what serena has made of herself. Any analysis you would do, as you have done for federer, nadal, djokovic, etc. I have seen what you refer to during her Wimbledon matches. And I appreciate the thoughtful details you provide in your analysis. Please share more.
    I assume this morning you are focused on Federer’s final, but please do it ! Thanks.

  • Liz Stockton

    Well said, Bob. I hadn’t thought about Serena’s retirement, or why she’s playing, or why she plays the way she plays. It’s no secret that I have never been a Serena fan and while I respect her tennis and athleticism, I much prefer the quiet and dignified style of Roger Federer. Your points about why she’s playing are an interesting take on her journey and her quest. I’ve always thought there was something slightly off about the way she handles herself and the way she reacts. It goes beyond “hating” to lose and is more like, “refusing” to lose, and not being able to “accept” a loss. I’m counting the days to the US Open finals. Thank you for your insights.

  • Howard Dorman

    Very interesting and while I respect her enormously, I find her on court demeanor very difficult to watch. The come on’s after every point?

    • MEL DI GIACOMO

      I’M WITH HOWARD AND LIZ ON THIS ONE.LIZ INSIGHTS ARE REMARKABLE.

      NO ONE IS CLOSER TO SERINA THAN I. PROPINQUITY IS WHAT I REFER TO.I’M ON THE COURT.THE ONLY ONES CLOSER ARE THE BALL KIDS AND LINESMAN.I READ HER WELL.I WATCH HER PERHAPS MORE INTENTLY THAN OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS.I WISH I COULD ARTICULATE MY GUT FEELING IN WORDS.ALL I MIGHT ADD I THAT I APPRECIATE VENUS MORE.COULD YOU IMAGINE HAD HER DAD TAUGHT VENUS A ONE HAND BACK HAND GIVING HER A 3-6 INCH REACH ADVANTAGE,HAD HE TAUGHT HER A RELIABLE BALL TOSS AND TO FOLLOW HER SERVE TO THE NET,WE MIGHT BE SPEAKING HER ABOUT VENUS.HOWARD WOULD NOT HAVE A COMPLAINT ABOUT VENUS’ FIST PUMP.IT BOGGLES MY MINE TO SEE VENUS SERVE AND VOLLY.THE WING SPAN OF A CONDOR.SHE WOULD SOAR TO THE PANICLE OF TENNIS.IMAGINE THE FEAR AFFRONTING MARGARET’S OPPONENTS WHEN SHE ARRIVED AT THE NET.THEN AGAIN I’M ONLY A PHOTOGRAPHER . TANTE ABBRACCI.