Editorial: Gray Matters: Time For America To Appreciate Serena Williams
(WASHINGTON - July 8, 2012) - Never before in the history of American sports has their been a transcendent yet under appreciated champion more than Serena Williams. Her character has been assaulted, her body disrespected, and her accomplishments minimized through no fault of her own. But after winning her 14th major singles title at Wimbledon and triumphing over what could have been a fatal illness the time has come for America to appreciate her brilliance.
The Williams family saga is the American dream personified yet filtered through cynicism of race. What Richard Williams did in raising two world class ladies from the streets of Compton and turning them into world champion tennis players is a testament to commitment and responsibility. His efforts have helped to keep American tennis relevant on a world stage. Yet he was accused of fixing matches between Venus and Serena in the early stages of their career. He kept them focused during the divorce from their mother Oracene and the death of their sister Yetunde Price in 2003.
Serena and Venus are the only reason to watch the sport in this country these days. Since Pete Sampras retired American men have been a non factor in major tournaments. Andy Roddick has been a gross underachiever. James Blake didn’t have the heart to be a champion. The best thing that Andre Agassi did was marry Steffi Graf and perhaps their child will earn a top 10 ranking and win the Grand Slam in 20 years.
Serena moves the needles in tennis the way Tiger Woods resonates in golf. They bring people who wouldn’t normally watch to the television and give hope to those who would otherwise never pick up a racket or a club. But unlike Woods there has never been an embarrassing personal transgression to derail her career. However the scrutiny has been unwavering.
Critics have questioned Serena’s commitment and passion for the game. Some have branded her as an underachiever because of outside interests away from the court. Because she has apparently never been consumed by an overbearing dedication to the game and has balance in her life it has been suggested by tennis analysts and sports columnists she was never really “all in”. There was a comment on the FoxSports.com website from a fan after questioning how good she could have been if she really loved the sport.
The 2012 fortnight at Wimbledon marked a return to glory. Those who question her heart, commitment, or resilience need to fully examine her last year physically. After she cut her foot in Germany Williams developed a pulmonary embolism – a sudden blockage of a artery in her heart – and faced a crisis of her own mortality. Serena was dismissed in the first round of the French Open then rededicated herself to greatness. The result was a dominant performance for the ages that has defined her legacy.
At 30 she is the oldest Wimbledon singles champion in the open since Martina Navratilova won at 33 in 1990. With a blistering first serve that has evolved into the most crippling stroke in the game, Serena’s chance to chance to pass Navratilova and Chris Evert for the most major titles (18) by any American player is well within reach by the end of her career.
Perhaps if she breaks that mark then the tennis establishment and sports fans in general will appreciate her for what she is. The greatest women’s tennis player in American history.
What do you think?
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Life is interesting. Her grand slam numbers and the record she will break is the same as Tiger's. In terms of respect, what would you expect? Just par for the course.