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ex·is·ten·tial·ism (gz-stnsh-lzm, ks-)
A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.
In the end the athlete is alone. It doesn't matter whether you play a team sport or an individual sport. In team sports an individual can outshine his or her team members like Michael Jordan who continues to overshadow an entire sport. Then there's a sport like golf or tennis where the individual is held responsible for his or her own performance. Some say the coach is important but if the player can't or won't implement the coaches vision the relationship will crumble and the athlete has to make different decisions about their career.
After losing 4 and 4 to Jana Cepelova at the Family Circle Cup earlier this year Serena made the following statement:
“I’m really just dead,” said Serena, who was coming off a title-winning run in Miami where she defeated world No. 2 Li Na in the final. “I need some weeks off where I don’t think about tennis and kind of regroup. I’ve had a long couple of years, and I’m really a little fatigued…I just need to take a deep breath and regroup. I think actually it’ll really help me for the rest of the claycourt season.”
I think that Serena, the one who needs time off from tennis showed up yesterday to play Alize Cornet who, to her credit, has been trying to live up to her responsibilities as the French Number One. She had never beaten Serena though and while Serena had appeared to be, let's say disinterested, during the run up to Wimbledon most, including me, thought that her competitive juices would kick in and that she'd romp through her draw towards the Final. Yes I believe that Serena would've beaten Maria Sharapova. But she had to get to that round first and she didn't. Instead of her facing WTA favorite Eugenie Bouchard she'll hopefully get to spend some time with herself and not worrying about tennis.
That said you can blame lots of things for Serena's lackluster showing on Saturday. She didn't play a warm up event. Was that down to confidence, maybe arrogance, about her ability to play on grass or was there an underlying injury that made it necessary for her to rest after crashing out of the French Open early?
Watching her take the first set 6-1 against Cornet yesterday there were troubling signs. When she missed her balls were landing in Wales and that was happening a lot in the first set. Her normal serving precision was off, her movement wasn't what it needed to be. The rains came just in time it seemed. It would give her a chance to speak with her coaching team and settle down, be SERENA, Terror Fabulous. By the third set her court sense had deserted her completely and it was obvious she had nothing, not even her famous will, to make her rise to the occasion and overcome a now confident Cornet, who celebrated as if she'd won the Championship.
In the end I think Serena, who played a very heavy schedule last year and the year before, needs a rest. I for one won't blame her for taking most of the summer off and return to the tour at Stanford maybe. She needs to find her motivation again and I'm not sure she needs to play herself to it. Serena turned pro in 1995. She's had some breaks in there, and especially after last year it looks like it's time to take another one. When she spoke very honestly about lesser players playing her "like the ATP" it showed that the filter between her brain and her mouth was lowered, a sure sign of fatigue. Maybe she felt that the press often ignored that fact and that she needed to say it.
In my opinion I think they're going to go right on ignoring it pursuing instead the latest WTA fantasy story line.
Serena was raised on the principal "your word is your bond". She has committed to Båstad and will feel some personal pressure to honor that committment I'm sure. Despite her undeserved reputation she is very loyal to the WTA and tries to do the right think at all times when it comes to her profession. The WTA has never made her it's "golden girl" and has never marketed its product with her in mind though. It's always been someone else who got all the hype.
Take some time off Serena. Find your motivation. Or not. You owe it to no one but yourself.