Great champions don’t take losing lightly. Where they may openly claim after defeat to simply put the disappointment behind them, truth is the loss festers and drives them to make amends the only way they know how – by winning all over again.
Serena Williams makes no secret of her hatred for defeat.
The defending women’s champion was soundly beaten in her second-round tussle with the statuesque Garbine Muguruza, a 20-year-old Spaniard she had easily accounted for at Melbourne Park only last year.
Coming into the match Williams had never failed to reach the second week as top seed.
After her stunning first-round defeat to Virginie Razzano in Paris two years ago – to date her only opening loss at a major – she rebounded in the most emphatic way possible, recapturing the Wimbledon title weeks later before returning to the red clay last year to claim just her second French Open crown.
Will the Muguruza loss awaken the beast within once more?
“It was one of those days. You know, you can't be on every day, and, gosh, I hate to be off during a Grand Slam. It happens, you know. It's not the end of the world,” Williams said. “I'm going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again. Obviously I'm super disappointed and it's hard. I worked really hard. I know for a fact I can work harder.
“If I couldn't play better I would be even more disappointed. But I know I can, so I know I have something to look forward to.”
By her own admission, Williams has won all before her – 17 Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold – and with umpteen weeks atop the rankings, does not feel the need to prove herself.
Roland Garros, though, remains the only Grand Slam title she has not defended. Need she any further motivation?
“For me, I just feel like I don't have to win another match, I don't have to win another tournament. Everything and every day is a bonus for me,” Williams said. “Obviously I want to do the best and I want to win and I want to be the best, and that's my whole goal. But, it's great sometimes to get knocked down because you have to get back up. I love getting back up. I love the challenge.”
In the past Williams was not always forthcoming with praise for opponents in the aftermath of defeat. To her credit, the 32-year-old was quick to highlight the level of play the Spaniard brought to Suzanne Lenglen Court on Wednesday. Upon sealing her fate with an error off the return of serve, Williams told Muguruza at net if she sustained that level of play she would win the tournament.
“I have actually never seen her play like this. So, you know, we'll see … Hopefully she can keep it up, keep her form up and continue to play like this,” she said.
“Honestly, I think Garbine played really well and she played really smart. I didn't adapt.”
Where Williams may not feel the need to prove herself anymore, she is yet to progress beyond the fourth round of a major in 2014.
She has served warning to Wimbledon.
Great champions don’t stay down for long.