March 26, 2012 -- Serena Williams draws attention. For her tennis. For her comments during matches. For her clothes. For her outrageous self. After her win over Samantha Stosur this afternoon at The Sony Ericsson Open, you can bet that the remaining women in the draw stared the likelihood straight in the eye -- Serena was up to the task.
How did they know?
Well, Williams came from behind in each of the two sets to right her course to victory. And, she hit 20 aces.
John Isner can hit twenty aces in a match and we call it an average day at work. Of course John Isner holds the record for aces in a match -- 112, which was in his first-round encounter in Wimbledon 2010, a match that went on for 11 hours over three days. Nicolas Mahut, the defeated Frenchman, hit 103.
But for a woman tennis star to hit that many aces it's front-page news, and it should be. Okay, it was Serena and she does have one of the best serves in the game. Yet, that stat makes eyes pop. It's like ... whoa-za!
Williams won the match 75 63, a total of 21 games. Ten of those games were return games, according to the data compiled by the tournament. That means she served 11 games, which then means she hit a hair under 2 aces/game. If you need four points to score a game, Serena earned half those points for free. Not really 'for free,' but her aces emphatically advanced her score, and both women changed sides to begin the next point.
Commentators frequently say, "he/she needs some free points here." Meaning, hit a couple aces and save yourself from, let's say, the brutal ground game that's forcing errors off your racquet.
Both Stosur and Williams are the most competent servers on tour. Stosur has a nasty kick serve that bounces so high to most player's backhand that a solid return is close to impossible. Williams hits aces. The stroke is a primary weapon for these Major champions. It isn't a way to get the point going, it is a weapon. And Serena sliced up the court today in a fashion that sets the competition on edge.
Serena holds the record for most aces in a tournament -- 89 -- wracked up over seven rounds at Wimbledon in 2010, which she won. How many aces is that per round? A bit over 12. So today she outdid herself.
As trite as it sounds, that's what champions do ... they pull from the depths of experience, swing out, and move on to the next point.
This is Serena's 12th appearance in Miami, which she has won five times. She is 30 years old, and that's another awesome story in the making, and hasn't won a tournament since last summer in Stanford. If she goes through and wins the title at the Crandon Park site, she will have won 40 career WTA titles.
Why then is it difficult for tennis fans to get, and stay, behind Serena's potential triumph in Miami?
Serena told the press conference today, "I don't get enough credit for being a super nice person. They only focus on me yelling at umpires."
This is a rub for people. Williams has 14 Major titles and certainly could have had more had she chosen to put more attention on tennis than on her other activities. But when she stirs the pot in front of millions of people, all that goodwill earned from all those career titles goes up in smoke. We remember the bad stuff.
Williams has had her share of crap dished up to her, too. Hawkeye technology can thank it's lucky line-calling stars for the poorest line calling of all time, during the 2004 U. S. Open match when Serena played Jennifer Capriati. Serena got hosed by errant line calls from a, what seemed to be, blind chair umpire. As John McEnroe adeptly yelled on Centre Court Wimbledon when aggravated by a call, 'everyone here saw the ball was out.' And that was true for Serena at the U. S. Open.
Whether you consider Serena Williams your favorite doesn't spoil the facts. Every time she's registered in a tournament she becomes the woman to beat, no matter how long she's been off. With both Venus and Serena in this year's draw, and on opposite sides of that draw, the conversation has now begun -- will there be an all-Williams final?
Like it or not, these two still define women's tennis.