It’s no wonder that her grand entrance, more suited to a boxing ring than a tennis court, included a glittering train that swished behind her as she walked, an accessory that emphasized her royal status, a status she gets she gets and that just marks how long their development – their word – was
, a far cry from the 17-year-old child prodigy with the white frizzy hair. Her five-year-old daughter mimicked her style as she sat taking photos of her mother as she won 6-3, 6-3 surrounded by the kind of luminaries – Bill Clinton and Dr. Ruth, Lindsey Vonn and Spike Lee, Mike Tyson and Martina Navratilova – fit for a coronation.
Williams’ journey to what so many considered her last show on the big stage took little playing time, having played only a handful of games last year. Bookmakers gave terrible odds to her return to Flushing Meadows at the ripe age of 40 and a post-game celebration of her career was planned, whether she won or lost – suggesting those behind the scenes at the tournament were assuming the latter.
Was the six-time US Open champion perfect? no Her movement is nowhere near what it used to be, saving Kovinic a point almost every time she was able to place the ball behind Williams. But in a career that includes almost every possible superlative, from the 23 Grand Slam titles (10 of which came after she turned 30
) to the stunning 14-0 she and her sister put together in the Grand Slam doubles final – a record that certainly hasn’t been touched by anyone, singles doubles, mixed, men, women – we know that: Serena Williams always comes to wins, almost making any imperfections in her game that commentators want to point out past the point.
While so many billed this as their last hurray, their swan song, their farewell – truly apocryphal for that double slot – Williams played it off as something else: another chance to win. As her pace and power increased in the first set, it was clear the Master was coming to the contest, and with every perfect throw in the air and every powerful serve – over 115 miles per hour
— who slammed the ball back down, it was clear that this wasn’t her last stand in a singles game, regardless of what the montage accompanying her performance implied.
When it felt like digging into a hole, that serve often got her out – powerful 185-mile aces, nine total, saved break points and allowed her to march forward, each one feeling more historic than the last. On the second set, she started eating Kovinic’s second serve for lunch, Break for a 3-2 advantage
that convinced the crowd that she wasn’t a miracle – she was Serena.
Triple match point: done. Emotions poured out, accompanied by a happy dance. The ritual handshake and then the victory whirl, for which her glittering black cocktail dress was perfect. Whatever comes next, that wasn’t a swan song.
Upstairs in ESPN’s dressing room was John McEnroe, himself a legend of men’s soccer, who once questioned William’s legacy
within the sport and speculated that if she played on the men’s track she would “be like 700 in the world”. He later refused to apologize
for the remark. Of course, men, like she pointed out so elegantly
in the article she wrote for Vogue announcing her retirement, you don’t have to choose between a star athlete and a parent.
still even winning the Australian Open
while 2017’s eight-week pregnancy apparently wasn’t enough to quell the comparisons successful women endure — on and off the court. Williams has been a key force behind the change that has unfolded in women’s sport in recent years. She once silenced critics of the catsuit she wore as she returned to court with details of the pulmonary embolism after becoming a mother almost ended her own life
after birth. She is now bringing to the fore that after a career that spanned a total of six years at number one, she wants to make her daughter a big sister and pursue her other interests, particularly venture capital.
What is left for her, the most successful tennis player of all time (and this is not an argument but a premise), honestly, on the court?
Well, it seems that at the end of a career that’s, in her own words, “extraordinary,” she still had at least one thing left to do: win a match she wasn’t meant to win, and not just give us more time , to watch Serena, but again to watch this Serena. It should come as no surprise to anyone that they, not us, not the media, not the bookies, will dictate when it’s over. And it’s not over yet. Advantage Williams, indeed.