On February 18 of this year, Serena Williams left the main square of the Australian Open in a particularly emotional way. She pounded on her heart as she looked with glassy eyes at the fans in the stands of the Rod Laver Arena. She waved, not briefly, rather unusually long. It’s never common when Williams loses, she is a 23-time Grand Slam winner.
So it was only logical that, after the 3: 6, 4: 6 defeat in the semifinals against the Japanese Naomi Osaka, she was asked about her sensitive gestures at the press conference. Would she have said goodbye by then, forever from this tennis stage on which she had triumphed seven times here on the Yarra River. “I don’t know,” Williams replied in a halting voice. “If I ever say goodbye, I wouldn’t tell anyone.” Still, she tried to smile.
Now, in December 2021, it looks more than ever as if those could have been the last pictures of the active player in Melbourne. She is missing on the entry list for the next Australian Open. The first Grand Slam of the 2022 season will take place from January 17th to 30th, the tournament has now announced the professionals who will participate. Some names are in vain, such as those of the two Swiss Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, but the renunciation of the two long-term injuries came as no surprise. Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, has registered as a starter in the office of tournament director Craig Tiley.
Will Djokovic really play the Australian Open? The tennis scene already knows more at the ATP Cup – the Serb is also registered in Sydney
That could mean that the alleged opponent of vaccination can still be administered a vaccine; Participation is not possible without vaccination. So far, the world number one has left his decision open, and he could still skip the tournament. The tennis scene should soon be smarter, on January 1st the ATP Cup begins in Sydney, a nations event with 16 teams (Germany is led by Alexander Zverev), and Serbia – as of now – competes with Djokovic. There could also be another back door for him if he did not get vaccinated or was not vaccinated: In some medically justified cases, exemptions are granted.
The fact that Serena Williams has meanwhile confirmed in a statement that she will not travel to Australia fits the character of the upcoming 2022 season: some farewells are inevitably getting closer.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer recently stated in an interview for the first time that he wanted to return to the field after his operations on his right knee, mainly to say goodbye to his supporters. He even talked about not being able to swing clubs until 2023 if necessary, but then he would be 41 – one trusts Federer a lot, but whether he will really still be competitive at his famous level is rather questionable. After profiting from a rule introduced due to the pandemic and staying in the top ten for a long time thanks to “frozen” points, he has now slipped to 16th place.
A mild deterioration compared to the Venus Williams performance curve. The American is ranked 316th. It’s basically unbelievable that she is still playing at all. It will soon be 20 years since she was number one in the world. She is now 41. She and her sister, who is one year younger, have been there for so long that the beginnings of her glorious life have now been filmed well worth seeing.
That sort of thing happens much later. “King Richard” with Will Smith in the lead role brings the importance of the father to the fore. With the Hollywood actor, the Williams sisters had recently shown themselves beaming on the red carpet at the film premiere. This is more of her life now.
Like Federer, Serena Williams also tries not to give too much substance to speculations about an early resignation. “I’ll miss seeing the fans, but I’m looking forward to returning and competing at my highest level,” she said. But the reason for her renouncement suggests that the priorities of the successful entrepreneur, wife and mother are increasingly shifting. “While this decision is never easy to make, I’m not where I need to be physically to compete,” said Williams. Communications of this kind, that is certain, are increasing in number. At least for the over 40s in tennis.