Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players to ever grace the courts, has been asked one question over the last couple of months: “Can you win another Grand Slam?”. Not that it seems too much to ask from the 23-time champion, but at 37, the American’s career seems waning. Amazingly, after becoming a mother, she seemingly came back to the court running as she reached 3 Grand Slam finals. But as the pessimist may point out, she lost all three in straight sets.
Reaching three Slam finals proved one thing: that she is still very much in the fray. However, losing all three proved another: that maybe she has lost that last bit of kick that got her to so many titles in the past. It may be too rough to say that she has lost anything over the last couple of years, for when we watch her play, her incredible speed and strong shots speak of everything but a player who missed the majority of a season. But regardless of her phenomenal play, she seems to be missing something at the final lap. Getting to 3 Grand Slam finals is no mean feat but losing all seems equal if not more incredulous. Many skeptics believe that probably the pressure of equalling Margaret Courts record 24 Grand Slam Titles and reaching what is the pinnacle of tennis glory is getting to the Americans head.
Serena Williams vs. Margaret Court
As an advocate of racial equality and an ever fighter for women’s rights, Serena’s win in the US Open will be even sweeter. Why should victory taste sweeter? Mainly because of the fact that Margaret Court’s recent comments on various sensitive topics have more than just raised eyebrows. Her racist and homophobic views garnered widespread criticism and have since been denounced by the majority of the tennis fraternity with the likes of Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King. Many raised questions of the appropriacy of such a figure holding the helm of tennis. But for all those advocates, Williams included, they know one thing, the only way to fight bigotry of any sorts is not stoop to lower than them but to rise higher. Serena Williams was a beacon of hope in the predominantly white male sport of tennis for all women and black people in the majority. She broke all senseless prejudice that was held against blacks in the US and abroad to rise in her sport. That is how she did it. That is how she fought racism; by working her hardest and becoming the best in what she did. And now it is quite ironic that a racist and homophobe sits above her as she has over the last 5 decades. This will give Serena extra cause to push for her 24th title. This will give her the motivation and the “kick” to give it her all at the Big Apple come September. But all this motivation and push comes at a price. That price being pressure and nerves.
Serena and the triumph of equality
The pressure that rests on Serena is insurmountable. The hopes of millions of people lay on her to topple the leader because the millions do not want a bigot up at the top of the WTA. As the last Grand Slam of the year gears up, there is more to play for than just the glory or the prize money. For Serena and many others, a triumph for her would signify a triumph for equality and what she stands for. As she answered, to the question of whether she should focus more on tennis rather than fight for rights, “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.” But right now, as it stands, the greatest fight that Serena can launch on prejudice is by playing her best tennis. As for what happens in New York, it would be primarily based on how well she uses this as motivation and shrugs off the pressure attached.
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