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The politics of being the end of the best


The very best women’s tennis player (and reigning Athlete of the decade) of the open era (since 1968) has just been vanquished from the court. Like Casey at the Bat, mighty Serena Williams just lost her latest and most probably her last Wimbledon tournament tennis match (June, 2022) to a roving player who’s never won a major championship (or any that the records have listed).

Who she lost to is not really relevant — that she lost, and looked weary and exhausted in doing so, is the point. Out of tournament play for over a year, this year’s Wimbledon was supposed to be her big comeback. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Serena (at 40 years old) and her tennis great-playing sister Venus (at 41) are finally walking away (more like being pushed away) from the game that made them rich, world famous and instantly recognizable wherever they went.

They don’t want to go, but age and sagging muscles are non-discriminatory. Together the sisters have won 30 tennis majors (Serena, 23; Venus, 7) Venus faced her sister in at least nine major tournament finals and cost Serena at least three more wins of her 23 total. Venus said she’d always wanted to win Wimbledon, and she won it five times; Serena has won it seven times.

In terms of pure tennis stats, today Serena Williams has won 23 majors (the four majors are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open). That’s the most in the open era for any male or female tennis player. She was ranked Number One in the world for 319 weeks (and she lost her ranking not on the court, but because she was pregnant), second only to Stephanie Graff’s 379 weeks and Martina Navratilova’s 332.

Serena and her sister Venus won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, the second most for a pair in the Open era, plus three doubles gold medals at the Olympics. Finally, Serena holds the most combined major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles among active players, with 39. This includes 23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is third on the all-time list and second in the Open Era for total major titles.

As of now, Serena is almost universally recognized as the G.O.A.T. of women’s professional tennis.

Youth like Coco Gauff are emulating the Williams sisters and are coming on strong. Black women tennis players and pro athletes are leaving no speculation about how great they can be. As Serena and Venus were for over 20 years, more great Black women players are coming. They can’t be stopped.

But it is sad to see one’s sheroes pushed aside. It always reminds one of his/her own fallibility and pending dismissal from the stage. All of us would like to go out on our own terms and when we’re ready to exit. But whoever brings it must accept the evitability of being eventually ushered away. Once being universally feted and praised, only leads to that dead end when nobody remembers who you are or were. Time is undefeated.

We must remember to do enough while we’re in the sunshine of health and stamina, so that when we inevitably wilt, our landing will at least be financially comfortable.

It will be a very long time before the tennis world, or the world in general, forgets Serena or Venus Williams. They made the kind of statements in that field that demands statues and murals.

Well done Williams sisters!! Well done Serena! We will not see your like again anytime soon.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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