In January, Serena Williams entered the Australian Open unseeded and disregarded, only to emerge as champion. She blitzed the field en route to the title and began openly talking about winning the Grand Slam; that is, taking all four major titles in tennis over the course of a single calendar year. Serena has already won all four majors in a row, a span that started with the French Open in 2002 and ran through the Australian Open in 2003, a feat she dubbed "the Serena Slam."
Yet Serena failed to consider one thing. Or, rather, one person: Justine Henin. Henin did not play in Australia because she was in the middle of divorce proceedings; however, Henin dismissed Williams from both the French Open and Wimbledon at the quarterfinal stage. Last night, the pair met yet again in the quarterfinals of a major, and the result was the same. Henin eliminated Williams 7-6, 6-1.
Serena seemed tense throughout the entire match. She was pressing, trying way too hard to blast Henin off the court. Serena was consumed with her desire to beat Justine, so much so that Williams may have wanted the victory over her rival more than she wanted to win the actual tournament. The anguish on Serena's face as she left the court was palpable.
It will be interesting to see how Serena reacts to this loss. Will she be pushed to new heights by the unfamiliar taste of failure, or will she refuse to give Henin credit as her equal and a true rival? If Serena can turn this bitter pill into healing medicine and go into 2008 fully committed, her rivalry with Henin could truly soar. Justine is clearly up for the challenge. Is Serena? --Wyman Meers