Coach: Motivation may be low for Serena Williams after 'painful' loss

ByMelissa Isaacson ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shocked by her US Open defeat earlier this month that derailed hopes for a calendar-year Grand Slam, Serena Williams' disappointment has her coach questioning whether she should play the remainder of the season.

Williams, who is scheduled to play in the China Open next week and the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of October, is still "resting" after her Sept. 11 semifinal loss to 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci, which some called the biggest upset in women's tennis history. And Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said her mood is not necessarily compatible with returning to competition.

"When she lost in Toronto [in August], she was very disappointed, but we went back to practice the morning after because she wanted to win the US Open," Mouratoglou said in a phone interview with espnW from France. "But after this year and the three Grand Slams [she won in 2015], the question is how high her motivation is to play those tournaments. I don't think she should play if the motivation is not really high."

Williams was understandably upset and brief with her comments following the Vinci loss, saying she didn't want to talk about how disappointed she was and insisting she did not succumb to the pressure of the occasion.

But clearly, Mouratoglou said, she felt the weight of her own expectations.

"Because she lost [the semifinal] match, she says to me her season is not good," he said. "But I like that because it's just about having high expectations and that's what champions have and I think the same way."

Mouratoglou said he took responsibility for not adjusting his pre-match approach based on Williams' mood the day of the semifinal, which was delayed one day because of rain. Having easily defeated Vinci in prior meetings and perhaps thinking ahead to the final, Williams was not in the proper frame of mind, he said.

"I don't think the strategy was wrong, but I think she was not in the right mindset that day for her tennis, which happens, but usually I find a way to make her be better on those days," he said. "And on this day, I did not."

Williams, who turned 34 last Saturday, is one title short of tying Steffi Graf's career total of 22 Grand Slam championships and three behind Margaret Court's all-time record of 24.With her Open result, Williams already has clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking.

"I don't doubt she will have the motivation to win more Grand Slams and reach records," Mouratoglou said. "I'm just thinking about the end of the season, and I don't know how high the motivation is, and I don't think she should go play competitions if her motivation is not high enough."

Williams had already completed her second career "Serena Slam" by winning four majors in a row beginning with the 2014 US Open and concluding with Wimbledon in July. But the 2015 Open title, which was widely anticipated by tennis experts and fans alike, would have put Williams in the company of only five other men and women to have won all four Slams in the same year.

"She was two matches away from something really big, so it was very painful," Mouratoglou said. "Any loss is very painful for her, but this one even more than usual, so it just takes time to recover from it. When the motivation comes back, which I don't doubt it will, then it will be time to start tournaments again."

As for the longer-term future of a player who is already defying the odds, Mouratoglou said it is premature to predict the end is near.

"I have no doubt the motivation will be there and no doubt she'll be the same Serena," he said. "She just won four Grand Slams in a row and got to the semifinals of a fifth. It's not time to doubt whether age will affect her. She has a lot of time left."