May 12, 2021
It wasn’t to be for Serena Williams in her beloved Rome.
Her career deserved a resounding win on the occasion of her one thousandth significant contest.
A grand old milestone if ever there was one.
All those matches and Serena was still as nervous as an absolute beginner.
She was also rusty and tentative and probably missing the presence of a supportive crowd.
Serena’s opponent, Nadia Podoroska wasn’t even born when Williams started playing professional tennis.
That was way back in September 1995 and $240 was the going rate for a playing a qualifier.
Williams played her first WTA match in 1997, the year the Argentine entered the world.
By the end of that year, Serena had already broken into the top hundred.
But times change and almost a quarter of a century later this was a level playing field in the Italian capital.
Podoroska didn’t look overawed by the historical greatness of the lady across the net.
If anything it is Serena who often looks shackled by the size of her reputation these days.
Her movement can look laboured until she really loosens up.
Podoroska broke early in the first set and she broke late too. Both times Williams battled back from the brink.
In the tie-break, Serena trailed 1-5 and saved three set points on her way back to parity.
But the 24-year-old South American is a gritty individual, who had reached the last four of Roland Garros last year. And she struck once more when she might have begun to crumble.
Serena was suddenly a set down. And part of the problem was down to an issue that shouldn’t be affected by her advancing years.
Her first serve was failing and a tennis player approaching 40 years old needs that key component as a pillar on which to rely.
Not a lot changed in the second set.
This time Serena trailed 2-5 in games but clawed her way back to 5-5, only to falter while serving to stay in the match.
The lesser known Podoroska had triumphed 7-6 (8-6), 7-5. Not exactly the way the script was supposed to read.
But let’s face it, this was a great day for tennis because Serena Williams was back playing again.
And in less than two months we will see the inimitable Serena at Wimbledon 2021.
That’s going to be such an emotional and such a special occasion. It could be her last.
Meanwhile another Wimbledon favourite, Coco Gauff played an astonishing match against Maria Sakkari.
The temperamental Greek smashed her racket three times after falling victim to a late call to go 1-4 behind in the first.
Coco won the first but felt the anger of her more powerful opponent in the second.
But Gauff is famous for her extraordinary fighting qualities. So we shouldn’t have been surprised when she served better than ever in the deciding set to romp home 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.
Won’t it be wonderful to see Coco and Serena at Wimbledon 2021?
We can’t wait for the action to begin. Hope you can join us!