“Yeah, I know, Serena lost the first set to Makarova, I saw that. She was down in the second, too. You know this is how she does it. She’s not moving well, she’s shanking everything in sight, she’s about to bust her racquet, and a week later she wins the tournament and everyone says, ‘I’ll never doubt Serena again, she can do anything, win a Slam blindfolded.’
"What’s that? Did I see the last game? I watched for a while, Makarova was hanging pretty tough up 5-3, I’ll bet she thought she had a chance to win. I didn't see the end, though. When Serena aced on her on match point, I started playing around with this new app for my phone. This thing can translate seagull cries into English. Pretty obvious what was coming next for Makarova, right? Sort of feel sorry for her, what did she think was going to happen . . . Wait, what? Makarova won? Serena missed on match point?”
I’m guessing that you, like me, were waiting patiently but confidently for Serena Williams to make her inevitable hair-raising comeback today against Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round at the Australian Open. More than any pro since Bjorn Borg, the phrase, “you can never count her out” applies to Serena. She knows it, too. How many other players would wait until they were down 2-6, 3-5, 0-15 to pump her first for one of the only times in the match?
When Serena’s final backhand floated harmlessly wide, and Makarova had her well-deserved 6-2, 6-3 win, though, I realized that I was waiting for a different—younger, less-ill, less-injured—Serena from the one we’ve seen for the last year and a half. This loss reminded me that, despite all of the back-from-the-brink Grand Slam wins that Williams has entertained us with over the years, we haven’t seen one in a while.