When Chris Evert called a news conference 27 years ago this month, a number of reporters believed she was going to announce her retirement.
Citing burnout, the 18-time Grand Slam champion had just skipped the French Open and, at the age of 34, acknowledged she was no longer always keen on playing tennis.
"A lot of athletes are still competitive at 38 or 40," Evert said at the time. "But mentally, it's being 100 percent intense every match. Nowadays, that's not as easy for me."
As it turned out, Evert would play the 1989 Wimbledon tournament and US Open -- where she reached the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively -- before negotiating her final exit.
Today, this piece of history is suddenly relevant because another 34-year-old champion seems to be struggling with her motivation. It's been a year since Serena Williams won Wimbledon and created an epic commotion as she chased the single-season Grand Slam.
It ended, badly, in the semifinals of the US Open where she lost to a far lesser player, Roberta Vinci. That ended a brilliant run of four consecutive Grand Slam singles titles and, we now know, sent her into a bit of a funk.
Serena did not play another match in 2015 and, after losing in the finals of the 2016 season's first two Grand Slams, contemplates an 0-for-3 streak as she prepares for Wimbledon, which begins Monday.
"When you're approaching 10, 15, 20 years on the tour, you lose some of the freshness, the hunger and the motivation wavers," Evert recently wrote in an email, in response to a question about Serena's state of mind. "It's a fact of life for athletes.
"You're not as single-minded, because you're experiencing a little more life -- so life gets in the way."
Indeed, Serena has found time to participate in a number of off-the-court projects -- including appearing in Beyonce's "Lemonade" video and on the cover of Glamour Magazine, selling dresses on HSN and doing a widely watched trick-shot video. Her new documentary, "Serena: The Other Side of Greatness," premiered Wednesday on Epix. She is also a serial poster on Instagram.
"I'm going to take a moment to be super honest," she tweeted in the aftermath of Paris. "I was really pissed."
During the second week at Roland Garros, though, Serena consciously seemed to be reining in her emotions. At times, she looked dangerously passive on the red clay. Was this an overcorrection to the emotion and the anguish she projected as she unraveled in New York?
Whatever her state of mind, these past three Slam results have not been lost on the increasingly confident field. The day before Garbine Muguruza played Serena in the French Open final, the Spaniard thought back to Angelique Kerber's victory over Williams in Melbourne four months earlier.
"I'm like, 'Come on, you can do it,'" Muguruza said after beating Serena 7-5, 6-4. "When you see people that are winning, and there's new faces, makes you think, 'I can be one of those faces.'"
"Yeah, for sure, it helps to see new faces."
Mary Carillo, an NBC and Tennis Channel analyst, believes that Wimbledon, always a comfortable place for Serena, is the appropriate venue for her to start fresh.
"If anything can encourage her to believe in herself again, get her playing the right way at the right time, it should be the grass of Wimbledon," Carillo said. "One more championship there and she ties [Steffi] Graf in Wimbledon titles and overall majors.
"Shouldn't it all come back together for her there?"
That remains to be seen. Certainly, the pressure that seemed to engulf her at the US Open is gone. Most folks in the tennis game think Serena will eventually win one more major and equal Graf's Open era record total of 22. Three more, which would match Margaret Court's all-time record of 24, does not seem out of reach.
But the window is closing. After the loss to Muguruza, Serena can't help but hear the advancing younger generation.
Life without competitive tennis, as Evert would tell her, isn't far away.