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Serena Williams - what does Wimbledon scare against Watson tell us?

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July 4, 2015


Had Britain's Heather Watson closed out the deal against world number one Serena Williams at Wimbledon on Friday, then nothing that would have followed over the next week would have mattered. Even if someone like Timea Bacsinszky or even Heather Watson herself went on to lift the women's title, then all the talk would still have been about how Williams had had her 23 Grand Slam match streak snapped.

The buzz about her failure to capture the Serena Slam and the Calendar Year Slam would have been churned over and over again. It would have grabbed all attention until the Wimbledon hype this year died down. Williams was pushed to the brink by a fantastic performance from Watson, who just couldn't serve out for the biggest win of her career. But what does the performance from Williams say about her chances of going on and banking the Wimbledon title this year?

There are of course two camps here. One could say that she looked so vulnerable, so flustered and out of control during patches of the final set against Watson that there is no way that she is going to hold out for the duration of the tournament. The other camp would stand up and argue that the adversity she faced in the match will have kicked any complacency out of her and she will only come back stronger and stronger over the second week of the Championships.

So which camp should we pitch our tent in? Tough, tough call. Look at the draw ahead. Serena would still have to beat her sister Venus in the fourth round, potentially Victoria Azarenka in the quarter finals and then Maria Sharapova in the semifinals and probably what would be her toughest match, taking on Petra Kvitova in the final. The way that Kvitova goes on grass, and as of now the Czech is the only player to have beaten Serena this season, winning Wimbledon looks tough for Williams.

It is time to come down on one side of the fence regarding Serena. The blessing for her after the Watson match is that she will get a couple of days off since there is no play on Sunday. She looked tired, run ragged by Watson, and the world number one had to dig really deep. Even though she will probably hit back and beat her sister, the Watson match may come back and haunt Serena down the Wimbledon line. It was an extra grueling, tense set that she didn't need and at times, she looked on the brink of cracking under pressure.

Serena knows all about pressure of course, but she looked mentally fragile when Watson broke her to go 5-4 up in the final set. If the draw stays on course and she has to go through Azarenka and Sharapova just to get to the final, then it's unlikely that Williams will capture the title at SW19 this time around. She is a fighter yes, she can call on her reserves of power hitting when in trouble, but you won’t have seen her looking that tired in a third set for a long time.

Both Sharapova and Azarenka on grass can take a set off Williams and that could potentially grind her down even more. Before the tournament, before that performance against Heather Watson and partisan centre court crowd, Williams looked set for a straight march to the title. Right now, it is looking at least 30% less certain that she is going to be holding all four Grand Slam titles come Championship weekend.

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