Both Wimbledon finalists will be fighting their emotions in what should be a momentous duel, with the American well placed for a 24th slam
When Sabine Lisicki lost the final at Wimbledon to Marion Bartoli in 2013, she could not control the flow of tears that showed her desolation. Within 41 days Bartoli had retired, at only 28, after losing to Simona Halep in Cincinnati, unable to stand the aggregated pain of a long career, becoming the first Wimbledon champion not to defend her title since the 1969 winner, Ann Jones.
The antagonists in the final six years ago handled the aftermath in their own ways. Bartoli contemplated a comeback, thought better of it and found a home in the commentary box, while Boom Boom Lisicki, the fastest server in the game between 2014 and 2016 at 130mph, never quite got back the magic. At the Australian Open this year, and only 29, she went out in the first round of qualifying, for the third time on the spin at a slam.
This is a deceptively tough sport, as the finalists on Saturday know too well. Halep began to flower in the years that followed her defeat of Bartoli, to the point where she won the French Open last year and has reigned as No 1 in the world; Williamss story is familiar to all, a tale of alternating glory and struggle that would seem to have at least a chapter or two left.
What they both share is a lingering fight with their emotions. Until Halep calmed her outer shell over the past couple of years, she was among the most volatile of competitors on the WTA Tour. Williams, as she admitted on Thursday after her best performance of the tournament a 59-minute demolition of Barbora Strycova cannot be sure from day to day how she will handle the pressures and expectations of her calling, even though she is by overwhelming consensus the finest player of her era.
Privately, she would agree with that. Good manners prevent her from saying so in public and that brings its own baggage. When Williams was in place to record a calendar slam in the latter stages of the 2015 US Open, her emotions ran wild and she collapsed in a lachrymose cloud not dissimilar to the one that enveloped Lisicki, losing in the semi-finals to the Italian doubles artist Roberta Vinci.
And last September, again the red mist came down across her furious and disbelieving eyes as she railed against the perceived injustice heaped on her by the chair umpire Carlos Ramos and lost in the most theatrical exit. This week, in an article in Harpers Bazaar, she reached out to her Flushing Meadows conqueror, Naomi Osaka, in a reprise of her case against Ramos, blaming the media for the furore.
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