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Serena Williams Defies Logic by Reaching Wimbledon Finals at 33

marilee gallagher by Marilee Gallagher


When the 2011 grand slam tennis season came to a close, Serena Williams was ranked just the 12th best player in the world and had done something she hadn’t done since 2006. She finished the season not in possession of a single major title.

espnw_g_williamss1999_5762011 was the year that Serena turned the big three-o and for those who don’t know, in tennis, that’s kind of a death sentence. Your body is more likely to start to fall apart, your ability to play at such a high level required to win a two-week long tournament, diminished. Essentially, your chances to win majors are drastically reduced, something that has proven especially true in the women’s game as only six women have hoisted the trophy post their 30th birthdays.
As such, the doubters began to swarm around Serena and what remained of her tennis career.

“Serena is unlikely to come anywhere near the Grand Slam title total amassed by Steffi Graf (22), whose record includes a “Golden Slam” (all four majors plus an Olympic games gold medal collected in the same year—it remains a singular feat).” – Pete Bodo, tennis.com, 2011.

Many gave Serena’s career three years left at the most, with the expectation that she would win anywhere between three to five more majors in that span, ultimately putting her third of all-time behind Graf and Margaret Court (24).

That was in 2011. Let’s flash forward four years to 2015.

Like a Fine Wine, Serena Only Gets Better with Age

Not only is Williams still playing, not only is she still contending for majors, but she is doing so at 33, as the best-active women’s tennis player in the world. Since finishing 2011 without a single major, Serena did the opposite of what many expected. Instead of folding to her age and the mounting pressure of keeping the U.S. in the conversation when it came to tennis greatness, Serena rose to the occasion. She stayed healthy, she improved her fitness, and she re-emerged in 2012 as one of the best in the game.

The common consensus was that Serena had just three to five major wins left in her. To this point, she’s won seven and is just one win away from No. 8 at this year’s Wimbledon. They said that she had no chance to catch Graf’s 22. She could tie that mark as soon as this year’s U.S. Open, the major she enters as the three-time defending champion. She’s added her name with Graf’s as well as the only two female tennis players to have won a career Golden Slam, doing so with her 2012 Olympic gold medal, thus also making her the only player, male or female, to have done so in both singles and doubles (completed in 2001).

In 2013, at 31 years of age, Serena returned to the top ranking in the world, making her the oldest female tennis player ever to hold the No. 1 spot. She held that ranking for an incredible 114-week span, which translates to over two years. This was the third-longest run in the women’s game behind Martina Navratilova’s 156 and Graf’s 186.
Upon winning this year’s Australian Open, Serena also became the only tennis player in history to win all four majors at least once post turning 30. Oh and one more thing to consider. Starting with her win at the 2012 Olympics all the way through to this year’s French Open title, Serena is currently the reigning US, Australian and French Open Champion, WTA Tour Champion and Olympic gold medal champion, not to mention being well on her way to the Wimbledon Championship. Winning Wimbledon would mark the second time in Serena’s career in which she has all of the grand slam titles at once, aka the self-proclaimed Serena Slam.

serena wimbledon

From the ‘R’ word to the GOAT

The great one, the prohibitive favorite, the best female athlete in the world, the conqueror, the most dominant athlete not just in tennis but in all of sports.

Those are just some of the titles and levels of praise that the once maligned Serena has received since turning 30. Those who were throwing around the dreaded ‘R’ word aka ‘retirement’ have since disappeared and in their place are those, including former greats themselves, who are ready to mark Serena’s place as the greatest of all-time.

“Her body has been holding up really well. She’s so strong and has such a powerful game. She has a chance to overpower her opponents, and she’s shown that over and over…She’s got a lot of tennis left in her. I can easily see her pass all of our records. I don’t see the competition catching up to her at all.” – Steffi Graf as quoted by Melissa Murphy, ESPN.com, 2013.

“After watching her matches and watching her closely, these players get close, they’re doing really well, and then she’ll get to another level where she slaps winners and she starts acing people. It’s not one level. All of a sudden, she’s up two or three levels better than the field. It’s not about the other women. It’s about how good Serena is. She is the greatest of all-time” – Chrissy Evert as quoted by Sean Gregory, TIME.com, 2015.

Serena has quite simply defied tennis logic and will have a shot to continue her improbable run toward post-3o greatness, this Saturday, at the Wimbledon Finals. She’ll be playing for the Serena Slam and for three-fourths of the Calendar Grand Slam, something she has never achieved and only three other women in history have before her.

She’s playing some of the best tennis of her career and to think, she’s doing all of this at 33 years old.

[youtube https://youtu.be/FOtfPlZl39o]

Marilee Gallagher is a contributor to Corner Pub Sports. Follow her on twitter-logo-transparent-small@mgallagher17

 

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