x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Serena prepared for tough time

Serena Williams knew over the last week in Doha that she was riding for a fall, after her failure to regain the world No 1 ranking.

DOHA // Serena Williams knew over the last week in Doha that she was riding for a fall. A failure to have regained the world No 1 ranking and a poor show in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championships would have made the tough American easy pickings for those wanting to have a pop at her. Serena, who arrived in the Middle East in contrite, polite mood after shocking the tennis world with her foul-mouthed exit from the US Open in September, let her punishing ground strokes do the talking for her as she rattled off five straight victories over the top eight players to claim a well deserved end-of-season honour and a cheque for US$1.55m (Dh5.5m). It must have been tempting for Serena from her position of renewed strength to call for a revamp of the much-maligned women's ranking system which has enabled Safina to be rated superior to Serena for half of the last year, even though the American won two of the four grand slams. "I never said I think the ranking system should be modified," she insisted after beating her elder sister Venus in the final of a Doha tournament of the walking wounded. "I just focus on doing the best I can, when I can. Whether I'm No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 100, I think it's just important for me to do the best that I can do." Both sisters were on their last legs as they tried to put on a show for a large crowd and they just about managed to complete their demanding programme, unlike four of their counterparts who had conceded matches through injuries sustained at the end of a tiring campaign. The need for a lengthy rest will prevent Serena - and indeed Venus - from representing their country in the Fed Cup final against Italy latest this month when the curtain will finally come down on the women's tennis year. "I really want to go but I don't think I would do well physically," she said. It's very difficult to play such a mentally tough week like this and then come back and play again. Right now I'm just struggling in every aspect of my body."

wjohnson@thenational.ae