Serena has worked for her formHaving swept to victory in Charleston, Serena Williams won in Madrid after battering world No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the final - signalling the return of the century's greatest star to the top of the game.
Serena is back
Serena has come a long way. Forced absence from the courts for a year between 2010 and 2011 through injury and serious illness led us to wonder if she would be able to find the motivation to get back in shape, to train hard and make the physical sacrifices needed. At 30 years of age, with a full career behind her and nothing more to prove to the tennis world, she could easily have said goodbye.
For years she was able to stay at the top by focusing on certain events. Often overweight, she used her natural abilities: an amazing confidence built on her incredible results, a high-quality serve and an outstanding quality of striking as early as the return of serve. This allowed her to overcome her lack of fitness by shortening the points.
After her return to competition, there was disappointment: she lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon against Marion Bartoli. That hit the American hard: she knew she wasn't at the necessary level and determined to fight back to the top, whatever the price. She lost in the US Open final as Samantha Stosur claimed her first Major, but Serena did not give up. Her ego was hurt and she got back to work.
Her fitness is there
Serena has set up a strict plan and daily routine for the first time in a while. She knows that her weakness is her fitness, so now she trains harder. She is as fit as we have seen her for years, allowing her to participate in long rallies and going for the jugular when she wants to. She is no longer forced to hit hard early on in order to avoid being moved around.
Her confidence is there
Her loss at the US Open was tough to accept because usually she finds a way to win. She has built a schedule in order to get matches, and titles, under her belt, allowing her to grow her natural self-confidence to even greater levels - this she can then rely on when things get tough. Confidence isn't given to you - it's something one has to take for oneself. Serena goes after it.
The serve is her main weapon
Her serve is out of this world. Her technique, timing and the effect she puts on the ball allow her to be very accurate, and make it tough to read. She has worked on it a lot in recent months, improving its efficiency: often she can serve 14 aces in two sets, even on clay.
Women's tennis is not weak - Serena is just strong
I can imagine that people say Serena going away for a year then coming back at 30 years of age to win in Charleston and Madrid is a product of a weak WTA. I would remind them that Serena isn't just another player, or even another champion, but the best player this century -she is simply showing how mentally tough she is. Only a physical issue can make her level drop, or potentially fatigue due to the large number of matches she's playing at the moment. Let's hope that with all this success she won't forget to save something back for the big goals: Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and US Open. All of these take place within just three months....