Serena Williams has been forced to retire from the WTA Premier 5 tournament in Wuhan, China, with a viral illness similar to the one that afflicted her at Wimbledon this season. Just as she was that day, Williams had to be assisted off the court after leading France’s Alize Cornet 6-5 in the first set of their second round clash.
Cornet’s victory makes her the first player since Justine Henin in 2007 to beat Williams three times in one season. Cornet’s other victories came at Dubai and, most shockingly, Wimbledon.
It is a huge blow to Williams. The world No.1 has had an up and down 2014 season, which, after upset losses in the slams in Melbourne (lost to Ivanovic), Paris (lost to Muguruza) and Wimbledon, finally began to look worthy of a world No.1 as she won her 18th slam title at the U.S Open three weeks ago in New York.
Williams’ season was looking just as bright as it had back then as she broke Cornet to lead 6-5 in their Wuhan clash. Williams is renowned for inflicting huge defeats on players who get the better of her in big matches (Sharapova is 0-15 against her since beating her at Wimbledon and the YEC (year end championships in 2004), and it looked like she was on her way to taking her revenge.
However, the star was feeling, in her own words in a statement to fans issued after her retirement “dizzy and nauseous in the first set and unfortunately couldn’t continue.”
Hopefully, for Williams and her fanbase, her withdrawal will not be the center of the controversial media storm that was her Wimbledon doubles withdrawal with a viral illness. That retirement came shortly after her crashing out of the event to Cornet and commentators of the stature of 18 time slam champion Martina Navratilova suggested that the reason for her exit might not have been down to a virus but down to something else altogether.
That controversy seemed to have died down though once Navratilova, joined by Chris Evert, another 18 time slam champ, arrived on court at this season’s U.S Open women’s championships trophy ceremony to congratulate Williams on her joining them on that illustrious tally.
Williams and her fans will now be hoping she can recover and amass as many points as possible over the remainder of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) season. With a tournament to defend in Beijing and the WTA Championships, Williams will have her work cut out to defend the 3000 points she earned at those events and maintain her No.1 ranking. Players of the likes of second ranked Simona Halep, third ranked Petra Kvitova, and fourth ranked Maria Sharapova will all have their eyes on ending the year as world No.1 now Williams’ health is in question.
But, if there is anyone on the WTA who can bounce back, it is Williams. The world No.1 will have time to recover before Beijing, and will do her best to secure the year end No.1 ranking, and to reassure fans that aged 33 and still winning slams, the viral illness is just one of many bumps that have threatened to get in the way of her career and which she has always managed to overcome.
Commentary by Christian Deverille