Serena Williams just won the WTA Tour Championships, capping off what has been arguably the greatest season of her career. She reclaimed the number one ranking in February and has tenaciously held on to it since then. She won the French Open, perhaps the greatest threat to her legacy in that her normal grass and hard-court dominance had not really stretched to the clay that so many Americans have failed to adequately play on. It was her second French, which seems like something of an oxymoron to say.
“It was ONLY her second French Open title.”
“It was ONLY the second time she won a tournament only a handful of living people have won.”
In a way, the word “only” serves to illustrate just how fantastic Serena is and how out-of-her-mind she has played this season. Yes, it was only the second time she won the French Open. But the operative word also serves to show just how much we have all come to expect her dominance.
Yes, she had an embarrassing first-round exit at the French last season (actually something of a silver lining this season because she had no points to defend there). Yes, she had an unexpectedly early exit at Wimbledon, losing in the round of 16 to eventual finalist Sabine Lisicki (who was on an epic hot streak, has a big serve that is made more potent by the grass, and really seemed worse than it was because she was so heavily favored heading in to that tournament).
But she rebounded to win the US Open in convincing fashion and continued her ridiculous dominance through the fall, culminating in her victory over Li Na in the Tour Championships just this week. It’s not so much that she’s doing it; we’ve seen ridiculous dominance, especially in the women’s game, and even from Serena herself, before. It’s the age she’s doing it at.
Serena is 32 years old, and yes, in the women’s tennis game, age means a little bit less than in the men’s game. Martina Navratilova played mixed doubles until she was 50, winning titles well into her forties. But to be this good, and to be this intimidating at this stage of the game, especially after how she missed time recently with a life-threatening blood clot and struggled with concentration during the mid-2000s, is nothing short of totally exceptional and unprecedented.
She’s more than twice the age of some professionals and easily four times as intimidating as all of them. Seriously, watch Maria Sharapova square off against her sometime; Sharapova goes through a spectrum of emotions ranging from frustrated to petrified to get-me-off-the-court-before-this-woman-embarrasses-me-even-more.
It’s safe to say we haven’t seen this level of play from a woman (or a man, really) of her age, in the singles draw, in many years, if ever. Serena, we’re all absolutely in awe of you, on and off the court. On the court, we’re just petrified. In a good way.
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