Elite Athlete Fitness: Serena vs Pliskova at the 2019 Aussie Open

First, there is no doubt in my mind that Serena Williams is the GOAT of women’s tennis. Statistically and biomechanically 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. Serena was rolling through the third set but, getting a little fatigued due to her extra weight.

Athletic trainers would probably characterize her body as about 25 pounds on the “fluffy” side. Suddenly, that fatigue translates into clumsy footwork, of course trying to change directions against the extra load, and she SLIGHTLY rolls the ankle. Luckily, not enough to
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 to 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. All in all, despite my years of watching Serena, now I’d rather watch Osaka!