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Thursday, June 30, 2022

not all retirements are timed properly ! - some are painful !!

One may not easily identify her !  .. .. this is Tamara Korpatsch,  a German tennis player with a career-high singles WTA ranking of No. 104 and doubles ranking of No. 291.  In Wimbledon, she lost in the first round to Heather Watson then was more upset !!   reason ? – her partner suddenly withdrew .. .. .. After beating Serena Williams in an epic Wimbledon singles match on Monday night, Harmony Tan  pulled out of the women’s doubles event – prompting an angry response from her planned partner, Tamara Korpatsch. Harmony Tan has career-high WTA rankings of World No. 90 in singles and World No. 302 in doubles.  Tan is of Chinese Cambodian and Vietnamese descent.

With tinge of sadness remember that ODI at Faridabad on 17th Oct 1994 – Cameron Cuffy, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Stuart Williams debuted – and the greatest Indian Cricketer played his last match.  In an illustrious Test career, Kapil Dev scored 5,248 runs and bagged 434 wickets with the best figure of 9/83, claiming 23 fifers and two ten-wicket hauls – he set very high standards in One day Cricket with that epic 175 not out and the title triumph in 1983. 

On that day, a century opening stand between Phil  Simmons and Williams, in his first one-day international, gave the tourists an ideal start. Though Lara went cheaply, Hooper reached 50 in just 47 balls, and the 90 he added with Arthurton took West Indies to a fine 273. That was out of India's range after ten overs, in which Walsh and Cuffy reduced them to 21 for four. Though Sidhu and Bedade (remember this left hander !) then contributed half-centuries, their significance was academic. Kapil Dev had a sad match, which turned out to be his final international appearance;   he conceded 37 runs in five wicketless overs.  Captain Mohd Azharuddin rudely treated him – as he walked to bowl his 6th, the ball was almost rudely snatched away .. .. rather unceremonious ending to a glorious career.

It is all happening at Wimbledon – thousands of  spectators   into the All England Club for Wimbledon, the largest annual sports catering operation in Europe. Over the two weeks of the tournament, the crowd is expected to consume more than 60,000 pounds of strawberries, complemented by nearly 2,000 gallons of cream.  Every Wimbledon, the British media spreads news on how far the British players could go ~ yet the spotlight would eventually be on William sisters.  Serena Williams and Venus Williams together have gobbled many of them.    The Williams sisters changed tennis, bringing it a new audience and forcing fans to rethink their perceptions of what a tennis player could be. Both sisters have carved out their own unique legacies through their decades of play, but as the eldest of the two, their story began with Venus.   

                Serena Williams set aside her eponymous financial investment company Serena Ventures this summer with the goal of getting back in business on the tennis court – the business of so-called play, where her true spirit of enterprise has thrived for so long. But 364 days after Williams limped off the Centre Court and out of The 2021 Championships with a first round ankle injury, her return to the tennis boardroom was voted down by France’s Harmony Tan 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(7) in a sensational three hours and 14 minutes. Undaunted by the seven-time champion, Tan responded magnificently to the challenge of her own very first match at the All England Club.  

Serena Jameka Williams (born 1981), an American professional tennis player has dominated the game like none before. She has been ranked singles world No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) for 319 weeks, including a joint-record 186 consecutive weeks, and finished as the year-end No. 1 five times. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most by any player in the Open Era, and the second-most of all time (behind Margaret Court's 24). Along with her older sister Venus, Serena Williams was coached by her parents Oracene Price and Richard Williams. Turning professional in 1995, she won her first major singles title at the 1999 US Open. From the 2002 French Open to the 2003 Australian Open, she was dominant, winning all four major singles titles (each time over Venus in the final) to achieve a non-calendar year Grand Slam and the career Grand Slam, known as the "Serena Slam".  Williams has also won 14 major women's doubles titles, all with her sister Venus, and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals.  Considered as among the greatest of all times, Serena was the world's highest paid woman athlete in 2016, earning almost $29 million.  She repeated this feat in 2017 when she was the only woman on Forbes' list of the 100 highest-paid athletes, with $27 million in prize money and endorsements.  

She has been plagued by injuries -   She underwent knee surgery in 2003, yet within a year of her return she was a grand slam champion again. After arriving at the 2007 Australian Open ranked 81st, she left with the title. She nearly died from a pulmonary embolism in 2011, but she toiled back to enjoy her greatest years. In 2017, she survived a life-threatening childbirth, yet she recovered to reach four grand slam finals. Over the course of her 27 years as a professional tennis player, Williams has seen generations rise and fall, with most of her contemporaries over a decade into retirement. But time comes for us all, and in a torrid evening on Centre Court showed the challenge before her in the final chapter of her career.

After tearing a hamstring in a fall on Centre Court last year and then not playing another singles match for 52 weeks, on Tuesday she made her singles return in the same venue. Rusty and short of confidence against a player who gave her none, Williams recovered from a set down and fought her heart out before falling in the first round 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (7) to France’s Harmony Tan. In terms of ranking and experience, the world No 115 Tan was one of the better draws Williams could have received.   

As Williams seethed, the roof was closed over Centre Court. She broke serve for 2-0 after a seemingly endless 20-minute game on Tan’s serve that required seven break points and was sealed in comical fashion with a high, loopy backhand that elicited a shanked forehand from Tan.  Williams was asked if she will be back at Wimbledon, a question she did not have the answer to. “That’s a question I can’t answer,” she said. “Like, I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”  Despite her uncertainty, Williams did say that a tight defeat in her first match back motivated her to return to the practice court and to improve for the US Open to come.  

In her press conferences over the past week, she has insisted that she has no idea exactly how long she intends to continue.  The question after her loss is what exactly she does want and whether this new comeback will turn out to be a farewell to Wimbledon. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th June 2022. 

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