Saturday, February 23, 2019 02:00:09 PM
Serena Williams finds herself under seige from revitalised rivals and an army of doubters as the defending champion starts her bid for a seventh Wimbledon title and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown.
Since she walked off Wimbledon's Centre Court cradling the Venus Rosewater Dish awarded to the women's champion nearly 12 months ago, Williams has found herself engaged in a losing battle with the history books.
That Wimbledon final victory over Garbine Muguruza meant Williams had won all three of the year's major titles, putting her within touching distance of becoming the first woman to secure a calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988.
But Williams' historic bid came to stunning end in the US Open semi-finals when she was beaten by 300-1 outsider Roberta Vinci.
In the aftermath of that chastening September day in New York, Williams has appeared a more vulnerable figure. For so long, Williams' power game and competitive instincts intimidated opponents into submission, but this year she has won only one of her five tournaments, in Rome in May, while enduring a pair of shock defeats in the Australian and French Open finals.
There is a growing sense the emotional scars from the US Open haven't fully healed for Williams and Germany's Angelique Kerber took advantage to shock her in Melbourne in January, while Spain's Muguruza avenged her Wimbledon loss by beating Serena in Paris earlier this month.
Falling at the final hurdle twice this year has left Williams still stuck on 21 Grand Slam titles-one short of Graf's Open era record of 22 and three behind the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court-ahead of Wimbledon, which gets underway on Monday.
The 34-year-old is the oldest woman to be ranked number one in the world and, with off-court interests including the fashion industry and a recent appearance in a video for pop-star Beyonce's 'Lemonade' single, critics have claimed Serena is no longer so focused on her tennis in the twilight of her glittering career.
Given Williams compiled a remarkable 53-3 match record in 2015, even she had to admit 2016 has been a disappointment by her sky-high standards.
"Not as great as I want it to be," Williams said when asked to assess her year so far. "I could do better. But honestly, that's how I felt about 2015."
In the circumstances, Williams will be relieved to feel grass under her feet as she returns to the venue where she won the first of her six Wimbledon titles in 2002.
"I've had people put me down because I didn't look like them," Williams said in a recent documentary.
"I've had people look past me because of the colour of my skin. I've had people overlook me because I was a woman. I'm still going."
With Maria Sharapova absent as she appeals against a two-year ban for doping, the main challengers for Serena's crown should be second ranked Muguruza, former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska and the likes of Kerber, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Williams in the Indian Wells final in March.
Muguruza, who last year became the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since 1994, is the pick of the bunch after winning her maiden Grand Slam title in such composed and combative fashion at Roland Garros.
The Venezuela-born 22-year-old's first round exit in last week's Mallorca Open was a setback but she is now fully focused on Wimbledon.
"The truth is I'm disappointed, but now I'm just training harder to arrive ready for Wimbledon," Muguruza said.
"It feels like ages since I last stepped on grass, but it brings me great memories, even though it isn't a surface I've always liked.
"I've learned to love it more lately and then reaching the final at Wimbledon, that was something so special."
THE death toll from the fire in Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka has now risen to 80. Scores were injured in the fire that originated around 10:40pm on Wednesday on the ground floor of the five-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion. The flames then quickly spread to three other buildings ...
PTI, Washington :The US military will keep around 200 troops in Syria after President Donald Trump's pullout from the war-torn country, the White House said on Thursday."A small peace-keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.The announcement comes ...
AP, New York :Chelsea shook off their recent troubles and easily advanced in the Europa League with a 3-0 second leg victory over 10-man Malmo on Thursday, a result that takes some pressure off embattled coach Maurizio Sarri.After a scoreless first half, Olivier Giroud tapped in a cross from Willian ...
Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Last Pahela Falgun and Valentine’s Day popular actress Mehazabien Chowdhury acted in several plays and telefilms those were telecasted in different satellite and YouTube channels. Mehazabien acted BU Shuvo’s First Love, Mabrur Rashid Bannah’s Chhotto Pakhir Basha, Mahmudur Rahman Himi’s An Unexpected Story and Misunderstanding, Mizanur Rahman ...
Sports Reporter :Despite Sabbir Rahman's century Bangladesh lost to New Zealand by 88 runs in the third and last One Day International (ODI) match at Dunedin in New Zealand on Wednesday. New Zealand clinched the ODI series 3-0.Sabbir hit a marvelous 102. His 110-ball innings was laced with 12 fours ...
THE nation solemnly remembers the supreme sacrifice of the valiant souls who laid down their lives to establish the right of our mother tongue Bangla as the state language of Pakistan on this day in 1952. As the pioneering movement that led to our ultimate independence, Ekushey invokes the emotional ...
Reuters, Ramallah, West Bank :The Palestinian Authority (PA) will no longer accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel following its decision to trim the sum over the PA's financial support of militants' families, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, an interim self-government body set up following ...
Actress Kriti Sanon is all set for a superb 2019 with Luka Chuppi, Arjun Patiala, Housefull 4 and Panipat. The characters the actress is essaying are strong-minded and confident as she is drawn towards such empowered characters. Kriti’s role in Bareilly Ki Barfi as Bitti was that of an independent ...
GAS explosion has become very common in the country nowadays. Even if someone escapes death, the victim has to suffer burn injury or loss of valuable organs. The authorities concerned still did not take any effective step to control such incidents. In the latest incident, seven people including a couple ...
Malaika Arora, who is recently making headlines for her relationship with Arjun Kapoor and the couples social PDA, recently opened up about her divorce with Arbaaz Khan on a radio show. Talking about her divorce she revealed that it was a mutual decision to part ways so that they could ...
Reuters, Islamabad :Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India in its investigation of a deadly bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last week, which India blamed on Pakistan, but warned of retaliation if attacked.Tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors has risen sharply over the ...