No longer is Serena a slam dunk to lap the field.
The most diverse names in women’s tennis are all potential winners as the 107th Australian Open officially kicks off the Grand Slam portion of the WTA season.
Thanks to the recent accomplishments of women of color in tennis such as Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Naomi Osaka and the unwavering excellence of the legendary William Sisters, this is one of the more colorful Australian Opens, as far as minority star power is concerned.
Serena Williams has won the second-most singles titles (23) by a woman in history. A victory at the Australian Open would tie her with Margaret Court for first place on the Grand Slam titles list with 24, with a chance to break it at the French Open.
In addition to the record-chasing road that Serena is on, her cultural, political and social platforms are always making an impression as part of her total artistry. At this point in her career, she is just as much interested in influencing the culture of the game as winning.
It’s only a matter of time before Serena breaks the record so every major is a big deal for The GOAT who continues to perform at an elite level despite her age and other significant life changes. After taking just 90 minutes to dispose of her first round opponent, she will play her second-round match this evening.
Williams hasn’t played many former Grand Slam finalists in the second round of majors, but she will on Thursday in the Round of 64 match. Her opponent, Eugenie Bouchard, has shown flashes of the brilliance that drove her to a majors final in 2014.
In an attempt to create some suspense, tennis legend and WTA analyst, Chrissie Evert said Bouchard has a puncher’s chance because of how well she’s been playing lately.
“Bouchard has turned the corner with her tennis, she’s had a disastrous last two years but with a new coach she’s more committed and could give Serena a match,” said Evert.
After Williams’ black catsuit caused great controversy in the French Tennis Federation last year, the Women’s Tennis Association subsequently cleared the way for catsuits for its players. Williams triumphantly celebrated her newly found fashion freedom with another expressive and vibrant outfit that fell within the new guidelines.
Serena rocked a form-fitting emerald green romper by a sponsor, similar to what she first debuted at the 2002 U.S. Open while working with Puma.
Her husband was feeling it for sure.
👀 I'm here for the romper. https://t.co/D53YzdDkcZ
— §AlexisOhanian 7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) January 15, 2019
The Fantastic Five
Unseeded Venus Williams is 38 now, but she’s always a dark horse candidate to do something remarkable and pull a couple of upsets. As recently as 2017, big sis was in the top 10 and reached multiple Grand Slam finals.
She’s already advanced to the second round.
Venus needed more than 2+ hours to pull out the victory and avoid what would have been her fourth opening-round loss in her past six appearances in Melbourne https://t.co/8ZHbwNBQNg
— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) January 15, 2019
Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys — names that will forever be linked in tennis history — captivated the world when they met in an All-Black U.S. Opens final in 2017. Stephens seized the moment, winning her first Grand Slam and becoming the first African-American woman since Serena in 2014 to do so. The tandem has continued to forge a new era in tennis.
Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys will face off in a French Open semifinal.
This will be the first all-American women's semifinal at the French Open since 2002. pic.twitter.com/N72ZdtulEK
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 5, 2018
In the opening two round of the 2019 Australian Open, Stephens didn’t break a sweat. She plays 31st-seeded Petra Martic in Thursday’s Round of 32 matchup.
— wta (@WTA) January 14, 2019
Keys is still seeking that elusive Grand Slam, but the 17th-seeded player rolled in her opening round match and prepares for her next opponent, unseeded Anastasia Potapova, this evening.
The breakout star of 2018 U.S. Open, winner Japan’s Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian, breezed through Round 1 and prepares for her Round of 64 match tonight against Tamara Zidansek.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) January 15, 2019
The beauty of it all is that each one of the women mentioned has a legit shot to win it.
No longer is Serena a slam dunk to lap the field. She’s still the most potent force in the game, but her offspring have surely closed the gap. Osaka defeating her in the 2018 U.S. Open final was proof.
Whatever happens in this Australian Open, we still have three more majors to go and these women of color will be front and center, battling it out for supremacy in women’s tennis.