Elite Athlete Fitness: Serena vs Pliskova at the 2019 Aussie Open
There is no doubt in my mind that Serena Williams is the GOAT of women’s tennis. Statistically and bio-mechanically over her career, she is likely the best server in either gender. As a long time fan of hers, that’s why this match was so difficult to watch.
Pro athletes know that if you are not at your most fit, you are vulnerable to situations exactly like the one that yanked Serena out of a 5-1 lead in the third set versus Karolina Pliskova in the Quarter Finals of the 2019 Australian Open. Serena was rolling through the third set but, getting a little fatigued, due to her lack of fitness.
Several women on the WTA tour have had children and come back to the tour. All sports enthusiasts must give proper respect to those who can make a living again as a pro athlete after childbirth. But the training is understandably grueling! All the more reason to give Serena credit for that and her other health challenges.
On the flip side, athletic trainers would probably characterize her body at that time as at least 20 pounds to heavy. Suddenly, the fatigue of that carry can translate into clumsy footwork, which likely contributed to a rolled ankle at that point. Luckily, not enough to get a trainer to re-wrap it tighter or, to effect her gate. She had no discernible limp. In that situation, even if your movement is questionable, it comes down to making good decisions in each point. When do you give yourself the green light to swing away!
Starting at 5-1, she STILL should have won the match during any 1 of 4 match points. Pliskova did not dominate any of those. In each, Serena had chances to go for a winner. Many coaches would call that being a “mental midget” for not swinging away every chance she got.
What explains why a great champion would not reason her way out of that box? Great question. Perhaps, this is an advertisement for on court coaching during the majors. It was tortuous to watch Pliskova get back into this match. Not even Carolina could believe it.