Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic chase perfection — and get pretty darn close: Post Sports’ People of 2015


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For years, the tradition of the winners sharing a dance at the Wimbledon Champions Ball was forgotten. This year, however, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams revived it. The choice to dance, reportedly, was Djokovic’s; the choice of song — Night Fever by the Bee Gees — was all Williams.

In the YouTube video that made the rounds on the Internet, Williams can be seen wearing a stunning soft pink ball gown, Djokovic sports a dashing black tuxedo with their trophies displayed behind them.

As the music plays, Williams, it appears, is doing her best to imitate disco moves, raising her arm into the air before bringing it down across her body. Djokovic, meanwhile, does a kind of shimmy, before attempting an arm wave, then abandoning both those moves to join Williams in raising his arms.

To put it kindly, it’s a bit of an awkward display, like one you might see at a wedding or an office party. And that’s just fine, by the way. They are human after all. Although if you watched them perform on the tennis court at any point this year, it was easy to forget that.

This season both Djokovic and Williams were chasing perfection — and they got pretty darn close. In the end, they were a combined three matches short of the double Grand Slam, but despite that, on either side of the tours, they were the architects of two of the most dominant seasons tennis has seen.

Djokovic won 11 titles and three Grand Slams and his record of 82-6 gave him a winning percentage of 93 per cent. He advanced to the final of every event he entered, save for his first tournament of the year, and became only the third man in the Open era to reach every Grand Slam final in a single year (Rod Laver and Roger Federer are the others). For the entire season Djokovic’s perch atop the rankings was left undisturbed as his 16,585 ranking points nearly doubled those of No. 2 Andy Murray to close out the year.

Williams, meanwhile, went 53-3, posting a winning percentage of 95 per cent and winning five titles. She also won the first three majors, meaning she delivered the most thrilling season in more than two decades with her (ultimately unsuccessful) quest for the calendar Grand Slam. And like Djokovic, she amassed a similar stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking. As Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated pointed out, at one point this summer, there was a bigger gap in ranking points between Williams and the No. 2 ranked player (Maria Sharapova at the time) than there was between the No. 2 and No. 1000 ranked players.

The sheer volume of victories is enough to celebrate their seasons. But there is a brand of winning that seemed to so encapsulate Djokovic and Williams that they should trademark it. In 2015, Djokovic and Williams demonstrated a will to win — or a refusal to lose — time and time again.

“When I get down, I tend to get really relaxed and I start to play a little better,” Williams told reporters.

That ability was on display several times during the French Open, when Williams dropped the opening set four times and played a deciding set in five of her seven matches. Each time she engineered a win, made possible by her signature powerful strokes.

Memorably, a noticeably ill Williams was down a set during her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky at Roland Garros. After getting broken early in the second set, Williams won the next 10 games to close out the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

“I really thought I was going to lose, and I thought if I’m going to lose, I was going to go for winners,” Williams said after the match. “I just fought for every point. And here I am. I don’t know how it happened.”

How? That’s just Serena.

Djokovic, meanwhile, came up against an unlikely challenger in his fourth-round match at Wimbledon. South Africa’s Kevin Anderson appeared more serving machine than man on this occasion, and the usual lethal return game of Djokovic appeared helpless.

Yet, Djokovic seemingly believed he could win, and battled back from a two-set deficit in a match that stretched over two days. He exploited a sliver of opportunity — two double faults from Anderson — in the 11th game of the final set to seize the lead and, eventually, the match.

“I was just trying, even though I was two sets down, to stay calm and mentally strong. I believed I could come back, which I did,” he said following the match he described as “one of the most difficult in my Wimbledon career.”

More often than not this season, when Williams and Djokovic fell behind, it seemed merely the opening act to the inevitable comeback, which is why the losses — yes, particularly those two — were all the more stunning.

But even their losses were extraordinary, in their own way. To slay Djokovic and Williams in a Grand Slam, their opponents had to reach a higher level, which can only be seen as a compliment to the loser. Following his French Open defeat of Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka said, “I played the match of my life.”

After Williams shockingly lost to No. 43 Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinal, thereby ending her bid for the Grand Slam, her Italian opponent called it “the best moment of my life.”

Wins and losses aside, Djokovic and Williams had all eyes on them this season and they delivered an incredible show — and really, what more could you want.

Thomas Lovelock, Pool Photo via AP

Thomas Lovelock, Pool Photo via APAwkward.

31/12/2015 09:00  By: National Post