Tennis great Chris Evert feels that Serena Williams won’t draw the same intimidation from her opponents upon her return as the competition has increased manifold during her year-long break. Williams has recently given birth to a daughter and is eyeing to defend her Australian Open title in January.
US tennis legend Chris Evert has issued a warning to new mother Serena Williams, who is eyeing a comeback to the circuit after a year, stating that the 23-time Grand Slam-winner is likely to lack her trademark intimidation factor now. Williams, who gave birth to a baby girl in September, has revealed her plan to defend her Australian Open title in January, just four-and-a-half months after becoming a mother.
However, Evert is of the opinion that since Williams stepped off the tour earlier this year, the standards in women's tennis have risen and she will face a more competitive environment. "I think that this whole year, the level has gone up because Serena hasn't been dominant and the other players have all felt that they had a shot at it, at the number one ranking," Evert told AFP while talking about her role as an ambassador for this month's WTA Finals in Singapore.
According to Evert, others players have improved their performance in the time being and are not going to be intimidated by Williams anymore. "I think the other players have gotten better and I think they're not going to be as intimidated when Serena comes back. I think that because of that challenge, they have improved in the physical and the mental part of it because they've all had a shot at it and they've pushed each other and that's why there have been so many different winners. So I think the level will have improved by the time Serena comes back," she said.
Women's tennis has seen three different champions in as many Opens with the top ranking seeing names exchanging spots during Williams' year-long break. Highlighting it, Evert said, "Williams' last match was January's Australian Open final against her sister Venus and since then, many developments have been made. Jelena Ostapenko surprisingly won the French Open, Garbine Muguruza emerged as the winner at Wimbledon and Sloane Stephens made an excellent comeback from injury to lift the US Open trophy."
Players like Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Muguruza, the current number one, all had their names in the top ranking this season, and Russia's Maria Sharapova has returned from a 15-month drug ban making a good impression in the recently concluded US Open.
Evert also expressed uncertainty on Williams' performance after comeback as she has gone through pregnancy and now have a child, which might emotionally distract her. "There're so many things we don't know about Serena, how it's going to feel to her being a mother coming back, is it going to distract her, is it going to motivate her more? Or how being a mother emotionally will pull at her and will it take her away from tennis? There're so many elements here that we don't know about Serena and her comeback," Evert said.
Moreover, the concerns about the WTA Tour's 'Asian swing' were dismissed by Evert. It has been observed that the players suffer a series of upsets as the season concludes, including at last week's Wuhan Open, where only one seed reached the semi-finals. Evert said that it is not just about the Asian Circuit, rather it is about managing the schedule efficiently when the season comes to an end.
"This has been an issue that's been ongoing as long as tennis has existed, and that is the fact that it's such a physical, mental and emotional sport that by the time you get around to the end of the year... it's understandable that players are starting to feel the effects," she said.
She continued, "It has nothing to do with the Asian swing, you can find it in the men's too. The fact of the matter is, in the beginning of the year you're rested and sharp and it's a big year, with a lot of depth in the game and you're getting a lot more tough matches than previous eras. So you really have to manage your schedule so that when it comes around to the fall, you want to be feeling fit and sharp and not injured. But that's about managing the whole year, it's not just about the Asian circuit."
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