Monday, March 2, 2009


For months on end after the retirement of mid-decade pow-erhouse Justine Henin last May, women's tennis was beset with pretenders to the No.1 ranking.
Whether out of fragility, inability or disinterest, no one plaer was excelling consistently enough last year in the major events to truly claim the top spot. Enter Serena Williams, one of the four elite competitors in the first Billie Jean King Cup exhibition at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Williams is an athletic force who has long been gifted with the skill and drive to keep a strangle-hold on the no.1 ranking - even more so than her older sister Venus.
But she drifted through years of periodic, subpar play after her "Serena Slam" (four straight major titles from 2002-03).
With increasingly few exceptions, the best players in the world's premier women's sport, Serena included, have compromised their on-court prime in favor of the sort of energy consuming marketing opportunities - fashion, modeling, acting - that top male athletes are less exposed to.
However, Serena seems to have rediscovered her love of tennis, easily winning the past two grand Slam events. Winning her third U.S. Open title in September, the champion leaped into the air a dozen times, legs kicking forward. Her Australian Open title in january was her 10th Grand Slam win.
Serena's tennis rivals might do well to reflect on her exuberant surge to the No.1 ranking; such pleasure in victory is a sure measure of desire.

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