It has been a long, sometimes controversial, and multi-obstacle course from chibi kid to all-time champion that has made one of the most intelligent and enthusiastic sports of its presence. She won her first US Open title at the age of 17 in 1999, the start of a recent record 23 Grand Slam titles. She found the bottom of her competitive heart and courage on Friday night, when just three weeks shy of her forty-first birthday, she struggled with the trademark ferocity of three sets and killed five match points with a raft of huge cuts at a tennis ball if she was ever exhausted. loss to Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-7 (7-4), 6-1, In what was almost certainly her last major tournament match. Just two days ago, she had The most annoying player number 2 in the worldAnnette Kontaveit.
She simply said after that, “I tried.”
Nobody in the history of the game, perhaps any game, has tried harder or longer.
“I mean, there are a lot of things to remember. Like fighting. I am such a fighter. I don’t know,” she said. “I really feel like I brought something — and I brought something — tennis. The different looks, the fist pumps, the just insane intensity. Obviously passion which I think is a really good word.”
It’s been a complicated 27-year career and it’s been hard to fathom. “Her legacy is really vast, to the point where you can’t even describe it in words,” said Naomi Osaka, her rival and friend.
Its effect can be partially illustrated by two pictures in parentheses. On August 9, Williams announced her impending retirement, or “evolution,” as she called it in less painful terms, with a majestic pose on the cover of the September issue of Vogue in a royal blue dress with a train. Prior to the September 24, 1999 hit of Williams, Vogue’s “cover girl” of the month was Gwyneth Paltrow, the usually skinny actress. Williams will redefine female beauty with a new mold of strength while challenging the traditional limitations of tennis, and making it open to more diverse audiences. She appeared in Vogue four times – the first black athlete to appear in its pages. It was no insignificant feat for a strong black athlete to insert the glossy magazine into her home member. Not to mention a display of accessories that happily covered her muscles, right down to the diamond scrunchies on her athletic boxer shoe.
“I am grateful that I can make such an impact,” she said earlier in the tournament. “I never thought I would ever have that effect. I was just a girl trying to play tennis at a time when I could develop that effect and be a voice. It was so authentic because I do what I do. And I do it authentically [as] I. I think people can really relate to that.”
Williams’ career on and off the field has been an exploration of strength – the colossal closing of her strokes combined with control, a profound precision that allowed her to clean the lines. Through the ebb and flow of victories, she was unapologetic for her towering temper, hard game, voice and origins in the hard, cracking, and faltering public courts of Compton, California. “I wouldn’t be who I am if she said at Wimbledon earlier this summer: ‘I haven’t gone through — and haven’t gone through — what I’ve been through.’” “I love who I am. I won’t exchange it for anything.”
Anything I did was “wrong” or against the tradition of tennis was inevitably exaggerated, criticized or scrutinized. But instead of being shy about it, she took to the matter and made huge statements, about body image, and thoughts about what tennis clothes should look like and how loud women can compete. Usually, the tennis world has placed hidden pressures on women to keep their ambitions and voices within a certain range, to suppress them. It was Williams who put the pressure on tennis with the strength of her competitive personality. I took advantage of all the advantages from the tennis world and there were no disadvantages. It avoided the burnout, disappointment, and over-play injuries that plague most young champions.
Finally, she has become not only the most enduring hero of the modern era but also the most respected. Over the past week, she’s been honored by Oprah and Queen Latifah, but the audience’s hype of a size and quality of affection that no other hero has ever heard. Not even the tallest tennis watchers had heard such applause. “This is not hype in tennis,” commented Marie Carrillo.
She said Williams could feel the receptions in her chest. “At some moments during the match, I couldn’t hear my shots,” said her first-round opponent, Danka Kovinic.
As Williams fought against Tomljanovic, the escalation rose and rose. In one match in the second set, she forced her opponent to fight for a full 15 minutes just to keep her serve. When Williams took this set, she let out a ringed scream of her own, causing her to flex.
But in the final match siege – one that lasted 22 points – as the match went into its third hour, she alternated with her powerful kicks and rushed into the net, shots that fell like overhead balls, with exhausting errors on her arm.
The last shot was a tired forehand that cut through the white net bar. And suddenly it was done.
Then, in an interview in court, when she thanked her family and friends, she cried in a whirl of conflicting feelings. “These are happy tears – I think,” she said. “I don’t know.”
Then she thanked that crowd who had finally learned to appreciate her. “I’m grateful to everyone who said ‘Go Serena’ in their lives that you brought me here,” she said.
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