The times have certainly changed since 1937 when Don Budge became the first tennis player to win a Calendar Slam. Fast forward 78 years. The tennis world was expecting Serena Williams to become the 6th Calendar Slam Winner in the history of tennis in this year’s US Open. Only she didn’t. The worst part is she felt prey to the signature one-handed backhand of Roberta Vinci, who had to overcome a 300 to 1 odds to secure her place in the competition. To make matters worse, Vinci was defeated in the finals by fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta. It seems her victory over Williams is a perfect drop-the-mic moment. Did Serena relax too much? Fell under pressure?


No sooner was the match over, the media went bananas looking for an answer to Serena’s loss. That’s certainly one of the things that have changed since 1937. Athletes did not have the cult following they have in our media driven, competition craze society. Just as an example, it was only in 1975 that computerized rankings began. Serena’s life is a long list of rank this, rank that.

Williams, almost 34, has been playing professionally since the age of 14. In all this years, she’s been making history. For starters, she’s the only player in WTA’s top 10 in wins on clay, grass, and hard courts. She’s been named the GOAT, tennis jargon for Greatest of all Time even though statistically she comes second as the most successful women of the professional era. Her title rival is Steffi Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam Singles Titles; Serena has 21 so far. That’s what we mortals would call pressure.

Allegedly, Serena is pressure-free. That’s what she said to the press after her 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Vinci last week. "I told you guys, I don't feel pressure. I never felt pressure," she answered. "I don't know. I never felt that pressure to win here. I said that from the beginning." There’s pressuring in the pressure. Serena has been known to go from panic to cool in moments.

Glam in my @StRegisNewYork room before my #NYFW runway show!!
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) September 15, 2015

For her part, Oracene Price, Serena’s mother, was reported saying that her daughter has pressure coming from everybody and also from herself. Price, tennis coach, said: "Just little things can put seeds of doubt in your mind and then you think too much, don't do what you should do, when you're out competing."

Sports psychologists have said that Vinci’s victory could be accounted for in part by her attitude towards the match. Everybody thought she had nothing to lose, so she approached the match with a different mind frame than the so-called Alpha lady, Serena, who is famous for her aggressiveness and confidence.* ESPN’s Chris Evert even mentioned that he saw Williams “paralyzed” during her last match.

What repercussions does this have on her career? This setback is conclusive, in a way. It means she will probably not have another chance to make it to the calendar-year Slam Hall of Fame. But, come on! She has made history as the GOAT. 2016 might surprise us with a great comeback, something at which Williams is no amateur.

Right now, the tennis diva seems to have made a smooth comeback to post-defeat life. She’s just presented a collection in New York Fashion Week.

Calendar Slam Winners:

Steffi Graf, 1988
Margaret Court, 1970
Rod Laver, 1962 & 1969
Maureen Connolly Brinker, 1953
Don Budge, 1937

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