Serena Williams is strange. Marvin Gaye strange. Diana Ross strange. Speaking in that soft aloof whisper that carries with it a resignation that the world at large with never be on your wavelength. There aren’t many people like Serena Williams that were built to do what she does. Compton? Black? American female? Why not soccer or basketball?
But her father Richard groomed her and here sister for tennis. And they won. Not that Doug Williams, Arthur Ashe groundbreaking win and slink off to an above average competitor existence. Serena Williams has achieved dominance in a sport that is not only diametrically opposed to her race, but also her class.
The tennis elite looked at those flopping beads and chocolate skin and their refusal to go through the traditional channels of coaches and tradition with disdain. The coded language that Black people hear when white people want to speak on race but don’t want to be seen as racists. People like John McCenroe made very public remarks on Serena and Venus while others dismissed the hard work they put into their craft as a byproduct of superior athletic genes (ah the code).
But here we are, in a sport where your late 20′s make you ancient and guess who the best tennis player in the world is? Don’t look at the crazy golf-like ranking where you can have a number one player without them being supreme. Serena Williams, as long in the tooth as she is, is the Atlas of her sport; supporting Women’s Tennis on her back. She is Wonder Woman. A couple of years ago, it was almost all taken away from her.
What is a superhero without drama and adversity? While Serena was chiseled like a Greek goddess, she’s had her fair share of injuries, including consistent knee trouble that set back her career in the mid 2000′s. She had various arch enemies including Martina Hingis Lindsey Davenport and her very own sister Venus. Through it all she crushed adversity with sweat and sinew. She also had her kryptonite.
After a successful 2010 when she won two Grand Slam titles, a freak accident in July not only took her out of the game, but almost took her life. Serena stepped on a piece of glass in a restaurant and the ensuing infection led to blood clots and almost cost her a leg. She couldn’t play, much less defend her title. It became more about life and death than wins and losses.
But like all heroes, Serena Williams returned to battle, armed with the most powerful serve in women’s tennis, a vastly improved defensive game and a renewed passion for the game she was almost denied. In 2012, she did what only Stefi Graf had been able to do: win an Olympic gold medal, along with the four major titles. Her triumph was historic but the manner in which she climbed back to the top was downright heroic.
On the comeback trail she battled her way through matches, gaining momentum and improving with each battle, beginning the year with yet another lower leg injury an forced to withdraw from a tournament. She followed that up with a fourth round loss in the Australian Open. After a French Open loss, Wonder Woman refocused and got some help from French tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou. The result was what the tennis world feared: a totally committed, healthy and hungry Serena Williams who rolled through Wimbeldon, crushed the top two ranked women’s tennis players in the world, dropping only 4 games in both matches and returning home to the US Open with a wipeout victory in the semi-finals and a come from behind victory for her 15th Grand Slam victory.
Perhaps her strange exterior is akin to Clark Kent’s thick-rimmed glasses. Her way to communicate with mortals on a wavelength they can understand. Maybe it’s her defense from questions that pertain to everything but her passion. Whatever it means, Serena remains faster than a speeding volley, more powerful than Wimbeldon and able to blast inhumanly fast serve in a single bound. Serena Williams is Wonder Woman. Without the magic, the bracelets and the invisible jet. Just blood sweat and tears.
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