With 16 Grand Slam titles in tow, Serena Williams is preparing to be named among sports’ immortals.
Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain, Jim Brown, Michael Jordan and Jack Nicklaus are in the pantheon of great American athletes. Men who have dominated their contemporaries with a timely blend of power, precision and skill. It’s time we prepare to add Serena Williams to this impressive bunch.
It’s time the fellas make room.
Her championship point at the French Open Saturday against Maria Sharapova was an ace clocked somewhere in the triple digits. The serve from Serena Williams racquet may as well have been a comet because by the time Sharapova reacted, what was left of the ball was well behind her.
Serena’s career didn’t start as dominant, but it’s ending that way.
While sister Venus grabbed the early headlines and titles, Serena came along at her own pace. From 1995-98, Williams felt her way through the tour — while players like Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles were still capturing titles. Serena finished 1997 as the 99th ranked player in the world. In 1999, she defeated Martina Hingis at the US Open to win her first grand slam tournament. By 2001, Williams was gaining momentum, cracking the top ten.
Then came 2002.
From the 2002 French Open through the 2003 matches at Wimbledon (twice), Serena Williams won every Grand Slam tournament (5) — defeating sister Venus in each of those finals. Not only was Serena now the top player in the world as a result of her “Serena Slam”, the Williams Sisters were now the most dominant force in tennis.
Through bouts with depression, haters, a life-threatening injury, haters, and a sharp drop-off in the rankings, Serena has put together five Grand Slam victories in the last three years. After losing to Sharapova at the French Open last year, critics began writing eulogies on Williams’ stellar career. Since that defeat, she is 73-3 — defeating Sharapova, the world’s second-best player six times, dropping only one set.
Saturday’s victory gave Williams 16 career Grand Slam titles — two behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Steffi Graf’s record of 22 is within reach. She has dominated her sport — while simultaneously carrying it to unprecedented heights. The only thing stopping the 31-year old from breaking the record are her interests outside of tennis — fashion, entertainment and being a partner in ownership of the Miami Dolphins — among other things.
Serena Williams rocket serve is as dominant a weapon in her sport as Muhammad Ali’s jab was to boxing, Ruth’s swing to baseball or Jordan’s mere presence on the basketball court.
Throwing in a Crip walk and a little parlez vous Francais to keep it interesting.
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