Most tennis players are done by the time they hit 34. But Serena Williams is not like most players.
That’s why Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, who Williams destroyed in the quarter-finals of last year’s Australian Open, won’t be surprised if she can back up her season of unprecedented dominance in 2016.
“She’s Serena. She’s special. She’s a legend,” Cibulkova told reporters in Brisbane.
Williams went an incredible 53-3 last year, picking up five titles – including three grand slams – to easily maintain her status as the world’s No.1 ranked player.
She only missed out on a calendar year grand slam at the US Open with an upset loss to Italy’s Roberta Vinci but hasn’t played since, calling an early end to her season in October due to injuries and a lack of “motivation”, according to her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, in the wake of her semi-final shock loss at Flushing Meadows.
Williams’ 2016 campaign will begin on Monday morning, when she teams up with Jack Sock for the American team at the Hopman Cup in Perth, and all eyes will be on her to see if she’s still the same player.
But if she’s lost even a little bit of pace, Cibulkova doesn’t expect it will matter in the grand scheme of things.
“If I would be 34 and I get a little bit slower then I’m done,” she said.
“That’s my something what I really have to be good at to be good.
“But she is such a good server and can finish the points in one, two, first two points.
“So that’s a much bigger advantage for her. That’s why I think she can play longer.”
Cibulkova, who is through to the second round of the Brisbane International after beating Belarusian Yanina Wickmayer on Sunday, joked that Williams “ruined (her) dream” with her ruthless 6-2 6-2 win at last year’s Australian Open.
“What I know for sure is that I don’t want to play her at the Australian Open in the early rounds,” she said.