Simply the best to ever do it, certainly on the women’s side and a strong case can be made overall, Serena Williams won The Championships Wimbledon for the sixth time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over #20 Garbine Muguruza of Spain. Muguruza is the last to beat her at a Grand Slam beating her at the 2014 French Open. Since then, 28 straight Grand Slam wins and for the second time in her career, Serena holds all four titles at the same time. A win at the U.S. Open in September would make her the second to ever win a calendar slam, joining Steffi Graf in 1988 who also won an Olympic Gold Medal that year.
At 33, you are just not supposed to do the things Serena Williams is doing in tennis. History proves this time and again, but she is special. The evolution of Serena’s career is awe-inspiring. Two years younger than her sister Venus, the two took the tour by storm, each with a brashness that was both disconcerting and downright upsetting to those in the game. Venus won the first six Grand Slam titles between the two. Serena has won 21 of the last 23. Only Graf has more singles’ titles in Grand Slam history with 22, another mark Serena looks to equal in New York.
The turning point in Serena’s career came in New York in 2009 in the U.S. Open final against crowd favorite Kim Clijsters. In the final set, Serena was called for a foot fault, her second of the match, to give Championship Point to Clijsters. Williams was furious, singling out the linesperson who made the call. Court mics picked up her saying to the linesperson she would kill her by shoving the ball down her throat.
The linesperson reported it to the Chair Umpire who consulted the Tournament Referee and Williams was penalized a point, Break Point, and Clijsters was suddenly the champion. The crowd booed Williams off the court and she faced discipline. But it changed everything for her, in a very positive way.
The incident forced much introspection, and Williams realized her legacy in the game was not secure, neither was adulation from the public. She did not want to be remembered that way. Serena entered 2010 a changed person. She had a focus never consistently shown, she had a respect for the game never previously shown, and she had an appreciation for the history of the game before her and the institutions of the sport. This new resolve paid dividends and the court of public opinion has been swayed.
Now a hero of the sport, with a legacy to be cherished, Serena Williams is affable. She is personable, and she has many friends within the game. She takes her role as the veteran player to heart, taking time to mentor younger players. She holds clinics and benefits, teaching and spreading the game to new generations. She is happy both on and off the court, and that has led to her second and most lasting completely dominant streak of her career. She still hits the ball cleaner and harder than anyone, but is now truly in love with the game.
She goes to the U.S. Open in search of cementing herself statistically in a realm we already see—as the greatest player ever. She will be focused and pressure never gets to her. So only health could possibly get in the way of the calendar slam and #22.