Was Serena Williams On Pain-Killers During Her Bizarre Doubles Match At Wimbledon?

  • Jake O'Donnell

Without proof of a viral infection (like Lyme’s Disease), a doctor’s diagnosis, or post-match bloodwork — it’s only natural for people to speculate that Serena Williams’ drunk-looking behavior had something to do with a substance. But just saying, “Oh she was probably drunk,” is stupid. There’s no indication that a drunk person — who smells like booze or is otherwise glassy-eyed — would be allowed to play by her coach, her sister, or the chair umpire who gave her a quick once-over after some erratic warm-up shots.

But there is something that could explain Serena’s uneasiness. Pain-killers (something she’s admitted she takes) for her bad back (that already caused her an early exit from this year’s Australian Open). Hey, we know that she’s taken them at least within the last six months. We do not know if she is currently taking them, though one would assume that after three difficult Grand Slam singles matches her back wouldn’t feel all that great.

[TheAustralian.com] “I was making a lot of unforced errors that I would normally not make. I missed shots that I normally don’t miss. Shots I haven’t missed since the 80s. But it’s OK. I know for a fact I can play so much better than I did today, so I’m not that disappointed.

“I just know that I can play 10 times better than I did today.”

Williams had been taking pain-killers and anti-inflammatories since her third-round clash with Daniela Hantuchova.

“I’ve been on the strongest meds I can take that are legal,” she said. “I always check with doctors. I always make sure I’m not doing anything bad because the last thing I need is that in my life.

“But my body didn’t handle it well because I haven’t been taking anything before. I was really out of it for a few days.

Tennis great Martina Navartilova has voiced her skepticism as to Serena’s “illness” excuse, insinuating that it was B.S. You can connect the dots yourself, but whatever she’s getting at, it ain’t dehydration. Navartilova also pointed to how hard Serena took her loss to Alize Cornet in the early stages of the tournament, and the subsequent two-day disappearance afterwards.

[ESPNW.com] Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told reporters he had not seen Serena in two days. Williams, a five-time singles champion here and the tournament’s top seed, was upset Saturday in the third round of singles by No. 25 Alize Cornet…

Observers, including friends and family, were reported as saying that Williams was distressed after the singles loss. Navratilova, who was No. 1 in the world for a total of 332 weeks in singles and a record 237 weeks in doubles, agreed it was not uncommon for a top player to want to be alone after a big loss.

“[But] why would it take two days?” she said. “Either you go home or default. I would expect a default before you play. But once you step onto the court, you’re a professional tennis player, you’ve got to be ready to play. No matter what is ailing you or no matter if you did anything to get you in that state or you’re sick or whatever, you don’t step on the court. You don’t step on the court no matter what.”

Once again, we’re not suggesting she maliciously took pain meds and played a televised doubles match at the All England Club — we’re simply saying it wouldn’t be surprising if, amidst her sadness over the early exit, she lost track of time and perhaps took a pain pill too close to her midday doubles match. Maybe she just couldn’t sleep and popped one in the middle of the night, and we saw the after effects.

From an outsider’s perspective, it just makes too much sense. We’ve all been sick and know that Serena didn’t seem like she was coming down with the flu. You don’t play when you have the flu. On the other hand, most of us have taken pain medication and are aware of what those side effects can look like. On Tuesday, Serena was a dead-ringer for someone who just got done with dental work. It wouldn’t make her a bad person if this turned out to be the case.