If Serena Williams had to be summed up in one word, it’s got to be ‘survivor’. From playing second fiddle to elder sister Venus, to being called the ambassador of women’s tennis in the modern era, the junior Williams has come a long way.
In the late 1990s, post the Graf-Hingis era, women’s tennis had hit a rough patch. It lacked characters, players who could dominate on any surface and, above all, someone who could take the sport to greater heights with their game and personality.
And that’s when a certain Serena came into the picture. I remember watching a match of the American in her early days. She had just entered the professional circuit and was better known as Venus’s kid sister. One of my uncles passed a comment saying “Oh Serena, well she will be like every other sibling, a shadow of Venus.”
But a survivor that she was (and is), Serena proved everyone, including my uncle, wrong. And she didn’t just succeed, she did so in style. She first overcame the biggest hurdle during her early days — Venus! Her first Grand Slam win over Venus happened to be in the 2002 Wimbledon final. The younger one went on to beat her sister in the following three Grand Slam finals, thereby completing a career slam or the ‘Serena Slam’.
The fact that she beat Venus convincingly, when the latter was at her peak, did wonders to her confidence. Probably, that’s when she acquired the ruthless streak. If she could maul her own sister, what chance did the rest have?
Serena went from strength to strength, capturing titles and with it, a million hearts too. She gave a whole new dimension to tennis, in short, brought life and depth to the sport again. Athleticism and Serena are synonymous! And many believe that on her day, she can beat even the best men’s player. Her serve is considered the best in the business.
It’s been a dream run for the 31-year-old ever since she has made a comeback from injury, which includes sealing a quarterfinal berth at the ongoing Australian Open. And it won’t be surprising if she adds a 16th Grand Slam to her kitty by the end of this week.
So where does Serena stand in the pantheon of women’s greats?
John McEnroe labelled her as the greatest of all times, while Martina Navratilova felt Serena had the potential to break all records.
For me, she is just a few years (read few Grand Slams) away from being called the greatest ever. Be it her phenomenal athletic skills, fighter instinct, dominance on court, ‘bling’ outfits or her love for fashion, the junior Williams has always added colour to game and pushed it a few notches higher.
It’s difficult to predict how long Serena’s career would last, but till she plays, just sit back and enjoy.