Friday, September 30, 2022

My thoughts on Serena's retirement

It wasn't my intention to wait this long to comment on Serena Williams' retirement, but the U.S. Open and various life stressors got in the way of my writing anything. I won't go over Serena's amazing professional resumé--I'll leave that to others. Instead, I want to address what she has meant--and continues to mean--to not only the tennis world, but to the culture in general.

Until 2020, I was a psychotherapist. I treated many women from various walks of life--different ages, different political beliefs, different backgrounds. Yet--when they discovered that I was part of the tennis world--they all expressed a great admiration for Serena. Her accomplishments attracted them, but they also talked about her strength, her resilience, and her authenticity.

When I was younger, I watched Chris Evert grow up. Later, I watched Serena grow up and find her voice, and it was a thing to behold. Yes, she made mistakes; however, some of those "mistakes" were obviously a consequence of her most serious health challenge--a pulmonary embolism. I didn't write about it at the time because it didn't seem respectful, but I mention it now just to set the record straight.

If you're a woman, life is more difficult for you (even if you're one of those women who chooses not to recognize that reality). If you're a woman of color, the difficulty is greater. If you're a famous woman or a famous woman of color, it can be brutal. Serena Williams endured years of sexist, misogynistic and racist attacks every time she spoke or  played a match. She also endured multiple injuries and a life-threatening health problem. But she carried on, she improved, she solved problems, and she demonstrated the concept of "champion" in a way that was breathtaking.

There will never be another champion like Serena. She began her career as a very talented girl with a highly competitive spirit, and by the time she retired, she had become a cultural icon for the ages. She is a voice for all women, and her career is a dramatic reminder that female athletes are strong, spirited, competitive, and relentless.

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