The ongoing US Open was seen as her last dance.
But after her first round win on Monday against Danka Kovinic in straight sets Serena decided to let the suspense continue. When asked -‘Will this definitely be your final tournament?’, the 23 time singles Grand Slam champion replied -‘Yeah, I have been pretty vague about it, right? I am going to stay vague because you never know.’
You never know indeed.
Serena Williams (AFP Photo)
The win in round 1 effectively pushed back the possibly impending retirement by at least a couple of days (Serena plays her second round match on Wednesday against Anett Kontaveit of Estonia), and it also gave Serena’s die-hard fans a glimmer of hope that she might just continue to play beyond the year’s last Grand Slam as well. The tennis courts have not been too kind to Serena recently and hoping for an all-time record equalling 24th singles Grand Slam title, which she has been chasing for a while now, might sound too ambitious.
But regardless of whether that fairytale title win does happen or not what the 40 year old Serena has already achieved in her absolutely stellar career is beyond special – 23 singles Grand Slam titles (just one short of the all-time record held by Margaret Court), 14 doubles Grand Slam titles, 2 Mixed Doubles Grand Slam titles, 4 Olympic gold medals (1 singles and 3 doubles), 5 WTA Tour Finals titles.
While those statistics are enough to sum up a player’s greatness and then some, the impact Serena has had on tennis globally cannot be measured in numbers. The countless young girls who she and her older sister Venus (7 singles, 14 Doubles and 2 Mixed Doubles Grand Slam titles) have inspired over the years, the incredible ambassadors that they have been of the sport, the level that they took international women’s tennis to and the sheer skills they showcased on tennis courts across the world cannot be put down in lists, but will always find a very special place in the hearts and minds of tennis fans.
Vijay Amritraj (Getty Images)
Indian tennis legend and the recent recipient of the Golden Achievement Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the ITF, Vijay Amritraj, was a guest on Times of India’s sports podcast Sportscast recently and talked about the impact Serena and Venus have had on global tennis, amongst other things.
“There’s no question in anyone’s mind that she (Serena Williams) is the greatest of all time. There’s no question that what Venus and Serena brought to tennis has been unique, joining their father Richard Williams. I have always said this and I have said this worldwide – what Venus and Serena have done in tennis is probably the greatest sporting achievement across all sports. More than a Tiger Woods, more than a Michael Schumacher, more than an Usain Bolt, more than a Michael Phelps,” Vijay Amritraj said on TOI Sportscast.
The sheer longevity of the careers of Serena and Venus is testament to just how special these two sisters, who were encouraged to dream big by their father Richard Williams from a very early age, really are as tennis players and athletes.
Venus Williams (AFP Photo)
Venus turned professional in October 1994, at the age of 14. Serena followed suit a year later, in October 1995.
“I think that to be able to do it, the way they did it, where they ended up playing each other in Grand Slam finals, they were Number 1 and 2 in the world for a period of time. They literally governed courts all over the world, between the two of them. The number of Grand Slams that they have won together is mind-boggling. When they were playing doubles they were the favourites. So, when you look at their performances and the two decades of playing on the tour, you look at it and say – wow, these people were not just tennis players, they were supreme athletes from one family that didn’t know what tennis was when the father decided to make them tennis champions,” Vijay Amritraj further said on TOI Sportscast.
What Serena’s win in the first round of the US Open has also done is give her fans that slight bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, she can get to singles Slam title number 24. But a Grand Slam title has eluded Serena for 5 years now. It’s hard to imagine sometimes that the last time Serena held a Grand Slam trophy in her hands was way back in 2017, at the Australian Open, a year after she won her last (till date) Wimbledon title in 2016. The last time she won the US Open title was in 2014.
Serena Williams (AFP Photo)
The women’s singles draws in Grand Slams have been wide open for a while now. And it’s the same at the ongoing US Open. The last time one player won more than one women’s singles Grand Slam title in the same year was in 2016, when Angelique Kerber won the Australian and US Open titles. Since then, barring Naomi Osaka (4 Grand Slam titles since 2018), no one player has really dominated the Slams.
“The women’s draw (this time at the US Open) is a wide open draw. I think the draw also has split up various players into different quarters. So it is going to be interesting to see whether someone like Coco Gauff jumps out of the pack or like Caroline Garcia (who) won Cincinnati (Open) and we are very excited because Caroline Garcia has entered in the WTA 250 (tournaments) following the US Open. So we are very excited that she had such a great week in Cincinnati…I think the draw is completely open – from Raducanu, to Serena Williams to Swiatek to the Kvitovas, the Ostapenkos, who have won Grand Slams…It’s absolutely wide open and it is going to come down to who is good on that day at the office.” Vijay Amritraj said on TOI Sportscast.
You can listen to the full episode of TOI Sportscast with Vijay Amritraj here