The How-I-wish-I’d-Never-Said-that Award goes to…
Saw this article on tennisforum, and just had to repost. It’s actually quite often that these former players get things so drastically wrong. I think I preferred them when they let their racquets do the talking. Pat Cash wouldn’t recognise pure talent if it hit him in the face.
Williams is lost cause
For all her talk, Serena Williams will never return to the top again
Pat Cash, January 14, 2007
IF ANYBODY is qualified to make deluded statements about tennis, it is a former world No 1 and winner of seven Grand Slam titles. But when Serena Williams arrives in Australia on her first foreign playing trip in a year and announces that it is only a matter of time before she is again dominating the sport, it’s time to tell her to get real.
Tennis is unforgiving. You can’t let it slide down the list of priorities, only to realise suddenly that playing the sport was what you wanted to do all along. Many have tried to turn back the clock, but nearly all have failed. That list includes Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Martina Hingis and, for different reasons, Monica Seles.
Admittedly this quartet experienced some success. The exploits of Hingis reaffirm the belief that a good champion never completely loses the gift, but she has gone only a fraction of the way and the No 1 ranking she held for a couple of years is far out of reach. Why? Tennis moved on in her absence.
The only players I can recall who let things slip, only to climb back to the top, were Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati. Williams should ask herself if she has the same dedication. And is she prepared to make the sacrifices? The answer is obvious.
As the saying so often used by McEnroe goes: “The older I get, the better player I used to be.” I take issue with Mac over many things, but not the merits of those words.
Williams may be in better physical shape this year than when she pitched up for the 2006 Australian Open, but her three matches in Hobart last week were her first in tournament play since the US Open almost four months ago. Add to that the fact that last year she opted not to play outside the US after losing in the third round in Melbourne and you cannot fail to agree that her application is lacking.
The Williams sisters changed the face of women’s tennis, taking power play to previously unimaginable levels. They blazed everybody else out of their path. But Serena clearly has a limited attention span. At her peak she had no patience in the way she played her tennis. Now she does not appear to have the fortitude to stick at what she is trying to do.
I never experienced a fraction of the success and dominance that she enjoyed, but there came a time in my career when everything associated with being a top player seemed suffocating. I wanted to do different things and the thought of heading to the practice court seemed like purgatory. Eventually I realised how much tennis meant to me and tried to make up for lost time, but although the spirit was willing, the body was not. And it made for years of frustration.
In the same way I maintained that my main interest was aspiring to be a rock musician for a couple of years, Williams said she was an actress. She also got involved in the fashion world and seemed to love every second of it. Good on her. She is entitled to do whatever she wants, and if it made her happy, what more could she ask?
Everybody knows she and Venus had no real choice when their father, Richard, decided that much of their childhood would be spent hitting tennis balls. Who can be surprised that this promotes a desire to do something different? But to make such a crass statement on her arrival in Australia was an insult to Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova, who have risen to the top of the game in her absence.
They are the new winning breed. They are tall and hit the ball just as hard as the Williams sisters, if not harder. Coming through are Jelena Jankovic, Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic, who possess similar firepower and just need a little more experience.
There is so much more depth to the women’s game nowadays. No longer do we disregard the first week of a Grand Slam as a warm-up for the real confrontations that are to come.
I still don’t expect too many upsets before the quarter-finals, but neither do I expect Serena Williams, currently the world’s 81st-ranked player, with eight Americans above her in the rankings, to be in the mix at the sharp end of the tournament.
And the apology/shit-I-got-it-wrong-again-article
The Sunday Times January 28, 2007
Strewth! I called it wrong
Pat Cash is happy to eat humble pie after Serena Williams produces an awesome display of power tennis to win in Melbourne
AUSTRALIANS are not very good at admitting their mistakes. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t happen very often when sport is concerned, but I hold my hands up in apology, I got it wrong all ends up about Serena Williams. In my defence, I was not alone. Tracy Austin, who knows more about women’s tennis than me, laughed at the suggestion that the former world No 1 had a legitimate shot at climbing back to the top. Yet here are the two of us, and many more besides, eating humble pie after Serena collected a third Australian Open title to take her Grand Slam collection to eight.
What does this win mean, except for the fact I once again appreciate it’s a good job I don’t gamble because I would have put a lot of money on Serena not even being around for the second week of the tournament, let alone winning the whole thing? Foremost, it proves she is a a dynamic athlete and quite simply the strongest female player the game has ever known. It defies belief that she can turn up for a Grand Slam after playing just four tournaments in the past 12 months and win the thing. However, it reinforces my long-held view that there is a huge disparity between the relative strengths of the men’s and women’s games. For a woman to win a major title, no matter how talented and experienced she might be, on so little match play is a sad indictment of the WTA Tour.
This result also tells me that the young band of players — Nicole Vaidisova, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Nadia Petrova, and even Maria Sharapova on the evidence of the final — are intimidated by Williams when she is focused on the job and brimful of determination. You have to admit, she must be a pretty awesome sight across the net when she is slamming winners.
People were shocked when Venus Williams got through to win the Wimbledon title in 2005, but this achievement eclipses even that. Just a few weeks ago, Serena turned up in Hobart for a minor warm-up tournament and lasted a couple of rounds before losing out to a player who was eliminated here within a couple of days.
I can understand why Serena allowed her concentration to wander into the worlds of acting and fashion. She lived and breathed little other than tennis for most of her teens and everybody needs time to break out. You also have to add the distress she felt when her half-sister was murdered in 2003. I lost a half-brother when I was a junior player and it was something I struggled to come to terms with for years. Now she is back and I hope that we see Serena contending at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows. I will not be making the same mistake again.