Serena Williams has all the time been the kind of athlete you run out of superlatives for, however her present run within the US Open is really difficult my vocabulary. Spectacular? Unbelievable? Possibly not otherworldly, simply but, however heading in that course.
Two matches into the US Open, Williams — 40 years previous, retirement in her sights, presently ranked 413 on this planet — is on one thing of a roll. She’s defeated two opponents, Danka Kovinic and Anett Kontaveit, who’re 13 and 14 years her junior, respectively, and sitting a number of columns above her within the Women’s Tennis Association rankings. (Kovinic: No. 80. Kontaveit: No. 2.) She’s graciously accepted her accolades, then gone out and reminded us it isn’t over but. This run is each stunning and unsurprising. Williams is defying expectations by doing precisely what she’s all the time achieved: hitting aces and taking names. Successful, irrespective of the percentages.
It is thrilling as a result of nobody knew what to anticipate when Williams took the court docket in New York. She’d already introduced, through an emotional Vogue story, that she could be retiring, aka “evolving away” from tennis, which ensured there could be much more fanfare surrounding the US Open than regular. Williams herself knew she had nothing to show within the sport, because the winner of 23 Grand Slams and one half of a trailblazing duo (with older sister Venus) that confirmed how profitable Black girls could possibly be in a white-dominated sport. In her personal phrases, Williams was underneath no stress and had nothing to lose. This was a time for celebrating her profession and what would come subsequent. She appeared targeted, however at peace.
Then, in entrance of a sell-out stadium and riveted TV viewers (2.7 million watched on Monday alone), Williams rode the frenzy to 2 upset victories.
It is as if, with all eyes on her, Williams determined to take the chance and remind us simply how good she is. She outlasted her opponents in epically lengthy rallies. She nailed aces like she all the time has. She fist pumped and stared down and twirled (covered in diamonds) as she waved to the followers. The third-set comeback in her second-round recreation was a show of not simply prodigious expertise but in addition tenacity as she fought for each level. Even watching on TV, you might really feel that star-studded crowd (hi, Zendaya) prepared her to victory. You possibly can really feel how a lot she wished it, how a lot she nonetheless needs it, even after these 23 Grand Slam titles. If there’s one factor Williams hates, it is dropping, and he or she’s all the time thrived underneath the highlight and in entrance of a full-capacity crowd.
After all, Williams’s presence all the time ensures a sell-out; her matches have lengthy been must-see occasions, along with her mixture of ability and showmanship. On the threat of stating the plain, although, this event is totally different. It may be her last professional tournament, and each time she steps on the court docket could possibly be the final. That information adjustments the importance of what we’re watching. It isn’t only a tennis match however presumably a swan tune of one of many best athletes many people will ever see.
Speculation over Williams’s retirement is nothing new, however now it is reached a fever pitch. If this US Open actually is her final event, it is one thing of a countdown clock. Successful is a technique to delay the inevitable and luxuriate in watching her carry out for a little bit bit longer. On the similar time, it is a reminder of who she is, has been, and can all the time be: a star who modified her sport after which transcended it, an athlete whose influence, on and off the court docket, really cannot be overstated. It isn’t hyperbole to say she has modified the world and can proceed to take action.
We all know why these matches are so particular to observe: as a result of it is the tip of a historic profession; as a result of nobody would’ve thought she’d get this far (on this US Open and, actually, within the sport itself) . . . and he or she may go farther nonetheless; as a result of sports activities icons so not often get the send-off they deserve, and he or she’s on the market incomes hers, one level at a time. Williams is leaving tennis on her personal phrases, and meaning profitable for so long as she will. How is she doing it? How far will she go? Williams herself put it greatest, after her second match, when requested if she was stunned on the stage of her play. She replied with a realizing smile. “I am simply Serena,” she mentioned. That is all the time been sufficient.