Serena Williams and Roger Federer – do they know something we don’t or have they missed their chance to retire on top?

Comment

Serena Williams has just won the Stanford Classic, while also claiming a 200th week as world No 1 in her career. For those who don’t know much about tennis it would probably sound great. Those who do, know she has been living in her own shadow for months.

Roger Federer has won two ATP titles this year and reached the Wimbledon final. Many, including myself, believe the ‘Maestro’ has got one more Grand Slam in him. But what if he doesn’t?

Both of them are undisputed heroes and living legends of tennis; both of them have won Grand Slam titles around the world, Olympic medals, and Tour finals. Both of them are also strong contenders for the US Open crown next month. Will they manage to retire as champions, or will we have to watch them go down losing match after match to young, unknown players for whom they were lifelong heroes?

What you give is what you get?

That would place them in a position where years ago they put the greats of the previous generation.

In 2001, a 19-year-old Federer knocked the reigning champion Pete Sampras out of Wimbledon, and claimed his first title at SW19 two years later.

In 1997, Williams aged 16 and ranked no. 304 in the world upset the world no. 7 Mary Pierce and world no 4. Monica Seles. That same year she broke into the world’s top 100.

Never a good time?

Some retire early, maybe earlier than they should. Kim Clijsters retired at 23 but soon realised she had more to show, and came back to win the US Open in 2009 as a wildcard.

Others, like Jimmy Connors just continue endlessly. After dropping from the world no. 1 ranking Connors continued for almost a decade. Every time I hear about Tommy Haas I can’t help but think we’re talking past tense, yet he is still intending to return in 2015 following a shoulder injury.

Venus Williams and Lleyton Hewitt have been hanging around and fighting for survival for so long, that they risk being remembered more for their average days than the greatest ones. They say they are still around because they love the game, which, if it’s true, is a great reason. But many of those who love them will never understand.

Then there are those who retire as champions. Marion Bartoli retired just after claiming the Wimbledon crown in what can only be described as one of the most bizarre tournaments in recent times. But she won it. We knew and she knew it could be her only chance to be on top. And she embraced it to the fullest.

But it’s not her whose retirement I will never forget. It was Pete Sampras who nailed the art of retirement. In 2002 in his last professional match Sampras raised the US Open trophy after a blockbuster final against Andre Agassi. On the very same court he won his first Grand Slam on, against the very same opponent.

Part of me thinks that Williams and Federer have missed their chance to match it. At the same time, as a fan, I hope I’m wrong.

When retiring, aged 30, Steffi Graf said, “I’ve done everything I wanted to do in tennis.” What if Williams and Federer haven’t? What if they know they can do even better?

One day Roger might get his Olympic gold in singles and Serena her 23rd Grand Slam title and beat Graf’s record. To do so, it seems like they would have to do the impossible.

Not that they haven’t done that before.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future