Friday, January 25, 2013

Injuries again halt Serena

Serena Williams’ injury concerns flared up again this week at the worst possible time as the American, en route to the final of the Australian Open, crashed in the quarters to Sloane Stephens after complaining of back spasms.

Williams, clear favourite at the start of the tournament between punters on Betfair, had breezed through the opening rounds in Melbourne and looked set to take a straight-set victory over compatriot Stephens and charge into the semi-finals. She had taken the first set 6-3 with ease and even broke her opponent in the second before her trainer was called.

Her hurt was treated but still visibly affected the world number three as she let Stephens back into the set and when her opponent took the second 7-5, it became increasingly clear there was only going to be one outcome.

Williams crashed out 3-6 7-5 6-4 in the end to a young opponent making only her first Grand Slam quarter-final. Stephens looked composed heading into the last set at 4-4 and confident enough to power through a weakened opponent.

Give credit the Stephens, for this tennis odds defying victory may send her into the top 10 on the WTA circuit by the end of the season, but also spare a thought for Williams, who now must be wondering if her body can keep up with the strain of the tour.

For Williams has suffered injury setbacks before – most notably in the mid-2000s - but has always come back to again dominate the circuit. The 31-year-old won Wimbledon, the US Open and an Olympic gold medal at the second-half of last season and took the WTA Championship title in Istanbul.

Yet a toe injury in the winter hampered her preparations for Melbourne and she rolled her ankle in week one. If injuries persist over the coming months expect the American to tighten her calendar and play less tournaments – the solution to her problems in 2006 and the reason she’s won so may Grand Slams.

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