At this point in Serena Williams’ illustrious career, she is like a human flyswatter, repelling all of these younger tennis stars with dreams of taking down the aging legend. The mother, wife, social rights activist, fashionista, cultural icon, booming brand and GOAT tennis player has recently had her set of challenges on the road to Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams.
Serena sits one US Open win away from tying Court’s record, but it won’t be an easy road. Her three-set Labor Day thriller against Maria Sakkari is indicative of the roadblocks that the 39-year-old Williams will have to overcome in order to grab that elusive major. She hasn’t won one since 2017. With or without it her legacy is secure.
In reality, Serena could have retired at 23 and would still be considered twice as good as anybody to ever do it. The fact that she’s steady giving golden showers to these ambitious neophytes is about as gangster as it gets.
“When the history books are written, it could be that the great Serena Williams is the greatest athlete of all time. … I like to call it the ‘Serena Superpowers’ — that champion’s mindset. Irrespective of the adversity and the odds that are facing her, she always believes in herself,” said Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA from 2009-15 and now chief executive of professional tennis at the U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open.
“Whether it was health issues; coming back; having a child; almost dying from that — she has endured it all and she is still in championship form,” Allaster said. “Her records speak for themselves.”
If not for her pursuit of Court’s record, Serena (23 titles) may have retired after she got married and almost died giving birth to her daughter Olympia. But she came back and repositioned herself among the elite performers in the game.
The way she has battles age, racism and outdated beliefs about Black women and beauty and fashion, elevates her to a legendary status that far transcends the court. Her consistency is unmatched and her dominance is unprecedented.
She’ll be 39 in two weeks and she keeps showing people that she’s not done yet. It’s like you’re holding the front door open so she can leave and the next guest can enter, but she’s still at the table finishing her dessert.
And in US Open play, Serena always performs well. In fact, her comeback win on Monday was her 100th win at Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing — the most wins by any player since the stadium opened in 1997.
Williams trailed Sakkari by a break early in the third set before turning the tables for a 6-3 6-7 (6) 6-3 victory to reach the quarterfinals at a grand slam for a 53rd time, tying Martina Navratilova for second on the all-time women’s list.
Not sure how the absence of fans hurts or hinders her game, but she looks like the same Serena in these unusual conditions. Powerful, intelligent, forceful, emotional, gritty and delivering 120 plus mph serves.
Williams came into this event ranked 8th in the world, right in front of Naomi Osaka.
We’ve been anointing different women of color as the heir to the Williams throne since the 2017 US Open, when Serena was out pregnant, opening the gate for Sloane Stephens to win her first Grand Slam title. Stephens defeated Madison Keys in an All-Black, Al-American final, 6–3, 6–0.
With Serena watching from the sidelines, Stephen’s win kind of felt like when the Houston Rockets won back-to-back titles when Jordan left the NBA to play baseball. The fact that she hasn’t won since doesn’t help.
In 2018, it was Osaka’s time to shine as the Japanese and Haitian superstar defeated Serena in the final, 6–2, 6–4, to become the first Japanese competitor to win a Grand Slam singles title and the youngest US Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2006.
That felt like it could be a real transition, but Osaka didn’t win another Grand Slam until 2019 and shortly after that everyone started anointing CoCo Gauff. As potentially-dominant as CoCo is, she has 0 majors and isn’t even old enough to drive in New York.
Last year, unheralded Bianca Andreescu blocked Serena’s run to become the first Canadian player, as well as the first player born in the 2000s, to win a Grand Slam singles title
This year most of the supposed future dominators like Madison Keys (neck injury), Gauff (Day 1 L) and Taylor Townsend (First Round L) once again failed to live up to the hype. Serena disposed of Stephens personally in Round 3.
Serena continues to will her way to victory over much younger opponents while carrying a body that one could compare to a 10-year veteran running back as far as the stress and strain it’s endured the past two decades.
With just 8 women left, if Serena can win her quarterfinals match and Osaka wins hers, then we will have a rematch of the 2018 Finals. The one that was supposed to be a changing of the guard when Osaka beat Serena, but Naomi has only garnered one more grand slam (2019 Australian Open) since then.
And Serena is still in the mix.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the OG could dial it up just one more time and close out a US Open win? She has there more tough matches to go, but who would bet against her?