Thursday, February 18, 2021

Some thoughts about Serena

Yesterday’s match, and its aftermath, produced an entirely new surge of sorrow, anger and anxiety about Serena Williams, her quest for a 24th major, and questions about her retirement. Her heart gesture, especially, caused people to wonder if she was saying goodbye forever to Melbourne.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t see it that way, though that certainly could have been what it meant. I saw it as a seven-time champion expressing her love and gratitude. (Of course, it could have been both of those things.)

Readers of this blog know how ridiculous I think the G.O.A.T. debate and the major-counting are. But if it’s important to Serena to match and/or surpass Margaret Court’s record, that’s Serena’s business.

In the meantime, however, Serena’s career record is rock-solid. She has achieved what very few athletes can achieve in their careers, and she has often done it under extremely difficult circumstances, ranging from injury to personal turmoil to rampant sexism and racism.

Serena Williams is an icon, but she is also a human being. Fans say that she will retire when she wants to, but that isn’t necessarily the case. She may have to retire when her body wants to, or even when her mind wants to. I hope that doesn’t happen any time soon, but it’s going to happen some time. And Serena will know when the time is right. And, I should add, only Serena will know.

Serena Williams has nothing to prove to anyone. She is an exceptional athlete, an admirable citizen, and an amazing woman. What Serena Williams isn’t is a template upon which fans can project their own anxieties and insecurities. Trust her.

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