Serena Williams withdraws from rest of 2015 season to ‘take time to heal’

Serena Williams calls time on her 2015 season after withdrawing from the China Open and the WTA Finals in Singapore

The possibility of Serena Williams withdrawing from the prestigious Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing and the climax of the WTA year in Singapore was flagged up only yesterday by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, in an interview with Melissa Isaacson for espnW.

A day later, and the news has been confirmed on the China Open website: Williams has pulled out of both remaining tournaments to rest and recuperate for the remainder of 2015.

Williams currently stands head and shoulders above her rivals in the rankings, sealed the year-end No1 at the beginning of September, and became the earliest ever to qualify for the WTA Championships—in early July—in the competition’s current format.

She set and passed numerous records through the season, too: at Wimbledon, the oldest woman to win a Major; the winner of most Majors after turning 30—eight of them; most matches won, 53, and most titles won, five; and just three matches lost all year.

And there was the rub. At the US Open, Williams was aiming for her first Calendar Grand Slam, was aiming to equal the Open Era record of Steffi Graf’s 22 Major titles, and aiming to win the most US titles won by any woman in the Open era.

But almost from the first, the anguish was written in her face—as it had been during a courageous assault on the French Open while battling fatigue and a virus. No fewer than four times, she came back from a set down, and then battled to a three-set win in the final too.

Her victory at Wimbledon, with no grass preparation, was also far from seamless, and in both Toronto and Cincinnati, she made come-backs from a first-set deficit against Flavia Pennetta in the former and Ana Ivanovic in the latter.

Come New York, and she seemed to carry the weight of expectation—and perhaps more hype than Manhattan had ever witnessed before—as both fans and experts all but ushered her to the title and the Calendar Slam milestone.

However, she struggled early against the No101 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, took three sets to beat sister Venus, and ultimately lost in the semis to the tactical craft of Roberta Vinci. Williams’ subdued press conference spoke volumes for her disappointment, and judging from Mouratoglou’s comments, that cloud still lingers.

“When she lost in Toronto [in August], she was very disappointed, but we went back to practice the morning after because she wanted to win the US Open. But after this year and the three Grand Slams, the question is how high her motivation is to play those tournaments.

He went on: “I don’t doubt she will have the motivation to win more Grand Slams and reach records. I’m just thinking about the end of the season… and I don’t think she should go play competitions if her motivation is not high enough.

“Any loss is very painful for her, but this one even more than usual, so it just takes time to recover from it. When the motivation comes back, which I don’t doubt it will, then it will be time to start tournaments again.”

With that ground-work laid, it perhaps softened the blow of the subsequent announcement from Williams: “It’s no secret I’ve played injured most of the year—whether it was my elbow, my knee, or, in the final moments after a certain match in Flushing, my heart.

“I’m a fierce competitor, and I want to compete as well as I can, for as long as I can. So I am taking a proactive step and withdrawing from tournaments in Beijing and Singapore to properly address my health and take the time to heal.”

Williams has won the Beijing title twice before, and the WTA Championships five times, including the last three years. 2015 would have been her 10th appearance.

But ahead lies another big year for Williams, one that will almost certainly see her equal that Graff milestone, and may find her defending her Olympic title, too. Her message certainly carried plenty of positive notes for the future.

“This is a very difficult decision, but one ultimately made because of the love of the game. I plan to return to practising and participating in exhibition matches later this year. And when I do, l will focus and focus and focus so I can continue my journey in this beautiful game.

“Arthur Ashe once said, ‘Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.’ My journey in tennis this year has been at times exhilarating, at times disappointing, but in every case, in victory and defeat, it has been extremely rewarding.

“I’ve grown more this year than perhaps at any other point in my career. The tennis family, and our fans, have embraced and supported me in ways I never imagined. I am grateful beyond words.

“I love this game more than ever. I hold deep respect for all those who have graced our courts. I’ve been privileged to be one of the few to understand their struggles and their triumphs.”

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