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Slams becoming easier for Williams than Premier events?

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August 17, 2015


So Belinda Bencic. What a fantastic run it was from the young Swiss star as she claimed the WTA Rogers Cup, beating four of the top five seeds in Toronto to lift the crown. There was guts and glory all through her run, which ended when Simona Halep retired in the final, clearly under some struggles with her leg in the third set. As much of a crowning moment taking the WTA Premier title was for Bencic, it probably won't have matched the win which she took in three sets over Serena Williams in the semifinal.

That was the second trophy from three finals for Bencic this season after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in the final of Eastbourne. Her other appearance in a final came in 'S-Hertogenbosch where she lost against Camila Giorgi. This has all been since June as well before prior to that this season she hadn't been past the round of sixteen in any of her appearances. But with three titles and 21 victories in her last 25 matches, she has exploded onto the scene.

So a meteoric rise from her but that's not actually the most interesting thing about her victory over Williams. Instead it points a cautious finger at Williams who could perhaps be accused a bit of dialing it in during her mandatory appearances at WTA Premier events and at Premier 5 tournaments. A bold claim but for a player who currently holds all four Grand Slam titles and who is looking to make a clean sweep of all four this year alone, her record in the top Premier events is nothing to write home about.

Don't you all find that a bit strange? She be eating these tournaments for breakfast. So is she coasting a bit to save herself for the Grand Slams? Let's look at this season and take an in-depth look at the evidence. The Premier Mandatory events are Indian Wells, Madrid, Miami and Beijing, with the Premier 5 being Cincinnati, Dubai, Toronto, Rome and Wuhan.

Indian Wells - Pulled out at the semifinal stage when she was due to run into the in-form Simona Halep.

Miami - She did bounce straight back and fought her way to the Miami title after struggling past Halep in the semifinals before going on to beat Carla Suarez Navarro in the final.

Madrid - Bombed terribly against Petra Kvitova in the semi finals

Rome - Withdraw after a first round win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Toronto - Straight after the peaks of winning the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, just when she was looking unstoppable, Williams lost against Belinda Bencic in the semifinals.

So from five Premier appearances in 2015 at the time of writing, there have been two withdrawals, two semifinals loses and just the one win. That's not the Serena Williams everyone knows and the record doesn't exactly point to Williams really pushing that hard or caring too much about anything other than the Grand Slam titles. But even if that's the case, then can you really blame her? Why not just shoot for the top prizes at this point?

But is something else going on? Is she really unfocused or uncaring about the Premier Tournaments? Is it that the Premier Tournaments are becoming tougher for Williams to win as opposed to the Grand Slams? That actually may have some basis because maybe it is the busier schedule over the space of a week that Williams is finding tougher to handle in the Premiers, as opposed to having a rest day in between every match when it comes to the Grand Slams.

Maybe there is that fallibility when it comes to playing every day for Williams at this stage of her career. In summary though as it stands, it doesn’t look as if Williams is particularly one to back when it comes to the Premiers at the moment, but is a lock for the US Open.

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