Serena Williams Inspires Sloane Stephens & Naomi Osaka To Chase US Open Greatness

The GOAT is still hoping to secure that record-tying 24th Grand Slam in 2021

 

As the U.S. Open heats up and advances towards its later stages, sports fans can’t help but feel a void with the absence of one of the tournament’s all-time elite stars Serena Williams. 

The cultural icon announced her decision to sit out the Grand Slam held in Flushing, Queens due to injury via an Instagram post last week. 

 

 

Her withdrawal from competition isn’t shocking considering the litany of injuries Serena has dealt with. The Queen Bee of the tennis world hasn’t competed since injuring her right leg in the first set of her first-round match at Wimbledon in late June.

Being forced to bypass this tournament while she tries to heal her body for one last glorious moment does nothing to dampen the legacy that she has personally cultivated and impressed upon the world. 

The Williams Sisters’ lasting impact on tennis is on full display as the number of young, elite Black women competing at the highest levels of the sport continues to rise. 

Every victory for a Black woman not named Williams is still another huge step towards evening out the playing field for young women of color in the sport of tennis. 

Naomi Osaka is a product of Serena’s global impact and the 23-year-old has exhibited the same otherwordly talents, social consciousness and robust marketability as Serena, who has been a voice for the unheard, a proud defender of women’s rights and an instigator of positive, progressive change.  

 

 

Osaka, a two-time US Open champion, advanced to round three on Wednesday without lifting her racket as her opponent withdrew. 

Sloane Stephens knocked out two of her fellow Black tennis sisters in less than a week. 

First she defeated Madison Keys and then she made quick work of Coco Gauff (6-4, 6-2) in a Round 2 match on Wednesday. 

 

 

Stephens, who holds the rare disctinction of beating both Williams Sisters, is looking formidable and might be headed towards a collision course with Osaka for an All-Black Grand Slam showdown in Flushing, where the fans have become accustomed to seeing Soul Sisters in the Finals. 

The success of a million Black women playing tennis doesn’t change the fact that we all still want to see Serena get that record. We already know she’s the GOAT, but the statistical confirmation is always nice. 

If Serena does decide (God forbid) to hang up her racket without winning another major, such is life.  

Williams’ strength can’t be questioned. Her physical presence —  so refined and elegant, yet strong and Uber athletic — has been tested as she approaches her 40th year around the sun. 

Considered one of the greatest athletes in sports history, Serena was born in 1981 and won her first Grand Slam singles event in 1999 at the US Open, becoming only the second African-American woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. 

It would be the first of 23 Grand Slam victories for Serena. Six of them have come at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

 

 

Her hold on the record books is tighter than Brooklyn box braids, but she still remains one major tournament win shy of Maragaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam women’s career singles titles. 

It’s not about Serena’s skills at this point. Her success depends on whether or not her body will hold up. 

Back in June, Williams’ quest for history ended in tears in the first round as she was forced to retire against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus because of a leg injury.

 

 

She probably should have called it quits, but her addiction to the game, her dedication to the millions of fans who still want to see her win a Grand Slam as a mom and her unwavering competitive drive doesn’t allow her to actually stop and smell the roses. 

 

 

Giving up isn’t as easy as it seems, especially for fierce competitors like Williams. Besides, she’s still performing at an elite level when healthy.

Serena hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2017, but she’s come close, suffering heartbreak losses in four finals during that time. She keeps getting upended by a couple of tennis new jacks and it’s getting harder for the iconic Williams to put these pesky youngsters in their place. 

In essence, she’s inspired a pipeline of young, Black talent that is peaking and slowly chipping away at her invincibility — at least on the court. 

Off the court, Serena is still a rare breed 

Serena has historically fought stereotypes,  empowered women and challenged outdated beliefs in sports and society through fashion. From her controversial French Open catsuit and the social firestorm that followed, to her independent clothing collection, featuring bold and inspired dresses, tops, bottoms and denim for women of color.

She remains one of the most marketbale athletes in the world. Her sponsors include Nike, Wilson, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines, Aston Martin, Pepsi, Beats by Dre, JP Morgan Chase, Audemars Piguet, Bumble, Upper Deck, IBM, Intel.

Williams is also the Chief Sporting Officer for Aston Martin. 

 

 

 

The Black girl who started hitting tennis balls with her older sister Venus in the crack vile-infested ghettos of Compton California has a growing empire. She’s earned nearly $94 million in prize money from washing opponents since the 90s.

Overall, Serena’s networth is estimated at $225 million. 

Serena Ventures is an enterprise designed to help minds that can evoke a change in the world. Currently, her venture has 30+ new startups ranging from many different businesses. The project helped Serena infiltrate the Forbes’ America’s Richest Self—Made Woman: 2020 issue.

It is reported that 60% of the companies Serena has invested in are women and minority-led start-ups.

It’s the same approach she’s used in tennis by so graciously investing in and promoting the sport and supporting its next wave of Black superstars. 

 

 

Tennis stopped being Serena’s only hustle years ago. She’s staying busy, inspiring people daily, championing causes, being a mom and wife and she’s chasing a ghost on the court.  

How about that for a day’s work? As much as we selfishly want to see Serena break the record, she deserves all of the rest and relaxation she can get. 

If it’s in the cards, then the Tennis Gods will make it happen because she’s revolutionized the sport and given her all to the game. 

Just turn on the US Open and watch the fruits of her labor ripen before our eyes. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.