SAVOURING THE GREATNESS OF SERENA WILLIAMS AMID RETIREMENT TALKS.
The entire sports’ universe stands at attention for the super-duper female tennis player, who hasn’t only dominated the game for a long time but has also revolutionized it with her unique and passionate style of play. With 23 grand slam titles, she will definitely exit the stage as one of the most successful female athletes the world has ever seen after the legendary Steffi Graf.
Williams’ adventure into the game of tennis started by learning from her father on the public courts of Los Angeles, until she turned professional in 1995 at the age of 14, a year after her sister, Venus. The sisters’ powerful serves, ground strokes and superb athleticism brought them to limelight. Their breakthrough however came at the 1999 US Open, when they both won the grand slam doubles title. All eyes were on Venus to be the first Williams sister to clinch a singles grand slam but Serena Williams proved them wrong when she stunned world best Martina Higgins, at the age of 17, to become the first African-American woman to win a singles major in the Open Era.
Serena’s victory at the 1999 US open changed the narrative in female tennis. According to her former coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, the sisters have opened the doors of the game to people of colour and different people, irrespective of race, class or status.
She continued in her prowess at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia where she, alongside her sister, won the doubles event. She wouldn’t make a comeback until 2002, when she won the French Open, US Open, and the Wimbledon, thumping her sister in the finals of each tournament. In 2003, she made history by securing all the four grand slams (Serena slam) in a row! A feat which she repeated in 2015.
She has also tied the records of the likes of Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Rafael Nadal when she completed the career ‘Golden Slam’ by holding all four majors as well as Olympics singles gold. Since her adventure into the game, she has topped the rankings 10 times, falling outside of it just three times during the open era.
Serena triumphed in 6 US Open finals, 7 Australian Open finals, 7 Wimbledon finals and 3 French Open finals, totalling 23 grand slams from 1999-2017, when she last collected the title, while she was eight weeks pregnant! She and her sister Venus have over the course of their respective careers, teamed up to win 14 grand slam doubles titles.
However, Serena’s success story revolved around a lifestyle of incessant injuries and illness which has repeatedly kept her out of the pitch for some appreciable time, yet, she kept on with the fight and upon each recovery, she continued where she had left off.
While still in the euphoria of her 2003 Wimbledon triumph, Serena had to undergo surgery to her quadriceps tendon on her left knee, this kept her out of the game for eight months. Three years later, she had to battle again for her left knee and couldn’t play for another six months. During this period, she went on a steady decline to No. 139 in the world rankings and almost didn’t make it to the US Open that year.
2008 was another tumultuous year for her, as shortly after winning the wimbledon trophy, the left knee injury struck again for the third time. This was coming after she had previously undergone a dental surgery. However, she defied all odds and hit the courts sooner than expected to win the Olympics doubles gold in Beijing, China.
Two years later, she suffered another setback after winning the Wimbledon, this kept her out of the game for almost a season. She almost died of post-operative pulmonary embolism after cutting her foot in a freak accident at a Munich restaurant. She suffered another pulmonary embolism in 2017 shortly after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, leaving her confined to the hospital bed for six weeks.
Williams resurfaced in March 2018, even though she did not win a tournament that year, it was notable that she reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. Her latter loss proved controversial as she was warned for illegal coaching, penalised a point for breaking her racket, and then penalised a game for verbal abuse of the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos. She was also fined $17,000 (£13,100) for the code violations that included calling the umpire a “liar” and “thief”.
She failed to make a headway again in 2019 as she was again defeated in the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. She however had a taste of triumph at the 2020 ASB Classic in Auckland where she won her first single event in some three years.
Now that the tennis sensation is ‘evolving away’ from the game, there is already a nostalgia for the excitement and excellence she usually brings into the game. The soon-to-be good old days must be relished and savoured. When she finally bows out, tennis will definitely miss a legend, an icon, a leader and a trailblazer. We do wish her more outstanding successes in her future endeavors.