If you enjoy tennis, you should be a Serena Williams fan. If you don’t enjoy tennis, you should be a Serena Williams fan. What Serena Williams has recently accomplished is unprecedented. And no, I’m not talking about her alleged hook up with Drake. Hey, don’t judge me – I saw the headline on Yahoo. Anyway, Drake has nothing to do with why you should be a Serena Williams fan.
Serena and the tennis world are focused on the US Open. If Serena wins the US Open, she will have won tennis’ version of the Grand Slam which is comprised of The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. She would be the first women to win the Grand Slam since 1988 when Steffi Graf won it. By the way, she has won the last four majors, but it was not done in one calendar year. That’s not unprecedented. Serena herself accomplished the Serena Slam (it was named after her) – 11 years ago.
Serena was 22 at the time she won her first Serena slam. I wasn’t a fan of hers then. While I was happy to see her, or Venus (her sister) or another American woman win (I’m patriotic – what can I say?), I didn’t root for Serena. More than that, I didn’t care for her. While she was obviously talented, Serena seemed to be coasting. Yes, that sounds ridiculous considering how well she did, yet that’s the impression that I, a casual fan, got.
Serena went through ups and downs in terms of her tennis game during her 20’s. It seemed every couple of years she would miss tournaments due to injury. She made comments about what she would be doing after tennis. In fact, she seemed interested in so many things that tennis was just something she did to keep her name recognition up. I want my athletes to be appreciative and determined. And Serena didn’t seem to fill either of those roles on a consistent basis.
But I was wrong. Wrong to judge.
Many athletes – Serena included – are thrust into the spotlight in their early 20’s with some tasting glory even earlier. How many of us were consistently gracious and humble when we were that age? How many of us always thought before we spoke and considered the ramifications of not doing so? How many of us would be that way if we were wealthy, adored, attractive, and enabled?
I, for one, have some moments in my past I’m not proud of. I would not want to have to answer for those moments or be judged for them. What could I say – young and dumb? I needed to learn and grow, and I’m not the same person now that I was then. How many of you are shaking your heads in agreement remembering your own digressions?
Serena Williams is 33-years- old (will be 34 at the end of September). She’s been a professional tennis player since 1995 – when she was 14-years-old. By 1998, she was part of a doubles team that won a Grand Slam. In 1999, she won the US Open, her first singles Grand Slam tournament. So, she has been competing at the highest levels of her sport for 17 years. As noted above, there have been interruptions to her dominance, but that doesn’t take away from her accomplishments.
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote – How Serena Williams Produced her Second Act. The article puts into perspective just how impressive this recent run of dominance has been. Before Serena, “only six women in the Open era had won a Grand Slam title after reaching the age of 30.” Serena has won six Grand Slam Titles since turning 30. The second act referred to has occurred since 2010. In 2010, the article notes, Serena lacerated her foot and surgery was required to repair a tendon. In 2011, she had a life-threatening condition – blood clots in both lungs. Serena said, “I didn’t think I would play tennis again and I didn’t care, I just wanted to get out and live and start a life.”
However, Serena began playing tennis again and the results were not impressive. Her competitive juices were flowing, and she wanted to get back to her former glory. She hired a new coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and the rest of the story… Well, you know the rest of the story now.
I love comebacks. I love determination. I love seeing a veteran who knows how to play the game and can use her/his wisdom and experience even if the skillset is not what it once was. Serena Williams is the embodiment of all these things. And I’m a fan. Go Serena!
Pic is courtesy of Nation of Change via Google images