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By Erik Gudris | Saturday, April 5, 2014

 
Serena Williams Serving Australian Open 2014

Serena Williams, after losing in Charleston, admitted she needed a break after more than two years of non-stop playing. What's next for the World No. 1 aside from a vacation?

Photo Credit: Corleve

You could see it in Serena Williams' eyes that she was tired. Traveling straight from Miami, Williams made the media rounds at the Family Circle Cup All-Access event on Monday. The defending champion did her duty by talking to the assembled reporters before doing multiple on-camera promotions to support the event. It's part of the job for any of the top players. But Williams seemed a tad more subdued than usual.

While expressing delight at returning to Charleston, a lingering doubt hovered over the World No.1's head. Could she really make the turnaround from winning a record seventh Miami title and then earn a third straight Family Circle Cup title the next week?

The answer was, of course, "no." Williams, despite trying to figure things out against an inspired Jana Cepelova, ran into the proverbial wall plus a determined opponent on Tuesday night in her second round match. Though we expect Williams to pull herself out of the slow starts she often finds herself in, Cepelova did not let Williams roar back to life as the young Slovakian completed a well-earned 6-4, 6-4 upset win.

Williams gave full credit to Cepelova who matched the World No.1 from all sides of the court. When asked if the turnaround from Miami was also a factor in the loss, Williams cited it was more cumulative than that.

"No. I actually made the turnaround really, really good. I'm really just dead. I need some weeks off where I don't think about tennis and kind of regroup. I've had a long couple of years, and I'm really a little fatigued."

Yes, the mighty Serena Williams needs a break. While Williams is always expected to win every time she steps onto a court, what we don't see is all the preparation and travel and everything else that it takes to get there. Add in that the WTA season ends in October allowing only a short time to recover and then start training again, it appears that little window wasn't enough time for Williams.

"I'm going to go on a vacation, for sure. I'm like I definitely…I need some time off, so I'm going to kind of take a deep breath, and I haven't had time, even in the off season, I went straight to training and there's just been so much in a couple several years, so I just need to take a deep breath and regroup, and I think actually it'll really help me for the rest of the clay court season," Williams said.

Since making her comeback from health issues starting in 2011, Williams has played more events than she did when younger. While many hailed Williams' new focus and commitment to the sport, those extra hours on court have added up to tons of frequent flyer miles that it looks like Williams is ready to redeem now.

Make no mistake, Williams is committed to tennis for the long haul. But while a short time away from the sport will help her recharge this season, she will have to reevaluate her whole plan on staying No. 1 and being a Grand Slam contender more often now, simply because she is getting older and she may not bounce back day in and day out as quickly as even she would like.

We've seen Williams time and time again show up at an event looking and playing sluggish, yet still be able to defeat everybody else. She did just that in Miami. But how many more times can she get away with that? If Williams, who, let's face it, is chasing tennis immortality, wants to lay claim to some elusive records in the sport, she may have to find an even more elusive balance between playing perhaps less but still finding a way to win the biggest prizes. That could mean she might have to loosen her nearly vice-like grip over the rest of the tour during the next few seasons if she wants to stay fresh.

After an incredible two years that saw her win four Grand Slam titles, two Olympic Gold medals and return to No. 1, Serena Williams not only wants a short rest but also a long-term plan to stay reinvigorated after being on tour for almost 20 years. Will she find that new approach? We'll soon find out.

 

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