Sam Smith has tipped Serena Williams to retire after the US Open, saying she believes her emotional farewell was genuine.
Nine tennis commentator Sam Smith doesn’t expect to see Serena Williams back at the Australian Open after her emotional exit from Rod Laver Arena on Thursday sent retirement talk into overdrive.
While several alternative theories have been posed for Serena’s uncharacteristic thank you to the Melbourne crowd and her press conference ending in tears, Smith, who is one of tennis’ most respected analysts, is now expecting the 23-time Grand Slam winning champion to hang up her racquet after this year’s US Open.
“I’ve never seen her do that ever in 20 years,” Smith told Nine’s Weekend Today this morning.
“But I also know that both Serena and Venus are the most impossible athletes to predict, I’ve been following them since they were teenagers and you just never know with them which turn they’re going to take and they wrong-foot you at every occasion.
“My gut feeling is that she won’t be back and she’ll play Wimbledon and US Open if, fingers crossed, they’re on, and give that a really good ride.”
If Smith’s prediction is accurate, Williams, who turns 40 in September has at most three more opportunities to level Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
However, Smith hinted that she may choose to sit out the French Open on her least preferred surface, leaving her with one last shot at adding to her seven Wimbledon titles before a swansong in her home Grand Slam in New York.
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve, former Australian tennis stars Casey Dellacqua and Alicia Molik were less confident about predicting Serena’s future, with Molik flying a kite on a different theory for the world No.11’s abrupt and emotional walk-out of her press conference following her semi-final loss to Naomi Osaka.
“I would love to see Serena back, I want to see her capture that elusive title for the all-time record,” Molik said.
“I think some of the tears in the press conference [on Thursday] were due to the fact that she was outclassed and beaten and the amount of times Serena Williams has had a match snatched away from her because someone has been too good is very rare.
“Normally it’s because maybe she’s made too many unforced errors, hasn’t returned well, didn’t move so great, but I feel like I was in prime form, she felt that she could win this Australian Open, she was moving as well as we’ve ever seen and it was a case of someone very similar, a similar mould to Serena, taking the match away from her.
“And that’s gut wrenching, it’s absolutely devastating, and I think that’s what we saw from her.”
However, according to Smith, if Molik’s analysis is correct it only adds weight to the theory that Williams is very close to announcing her retirement because it only serves as confirmation that she is no longer the undisputed queen of tennis.
“There’s not that many times that Serena has been beaten (in the manner that she was by Osaka),” Smith said.
“And she was roundly beaten in that semi-final, by a better player. Normally if Serena loses it’s because she’s been a little bit off.
“And she knows, it’s not just Osaka, Barty’s going to improve, you’ve got (tonight’s other finalist Jennifer) Brady coming up, there’s Coco Gauff, there’s a lot of very good young players.
“She got through (rising Belarussian star Aryna) Sabalenka (in the fourth round), another good striker. They’re all going to get better, but I still feel that she has a great chance of winning Wimbledon and the US Open because her level is right up there.
“That’s my gut feeling but who knows, watch this space.”
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