We need to talk about is the competitive fire that has Serena Williams looking at a 45-year old Tom Brady and feeling like her career is in any way less than complete.
As a spectator and consumer of women’s sports, and a fan of excellence, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was missing out on something every time an elite female athlete has to take a year off to grow and birth another human being.
It makes complete sense to me that Serena Williams would struggle to reconcile two of the best things in her life. The idea that because she’s a woman, parenthood takes away from the potential of athletic greatness is something I’ve never had to even consider.
That’s what brings me to my point. Maybe we, and by we I’m including Serena Williams, shouldn’t be looking at the physical labor of expanding a family as an unfair gender dynamic that leaves male athletes in a more admirable position to achieve longevity and maximize their potential.
Maybe we should look at it as proof that female athletes like Serena Williams, Candace Parker, Allison Felix and everyone else that has managed to not only return to form after pregnancy, but actually improve, are actually the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment.
Maybe the next time Tom Brady retires, we should be hearing him make aspirational references to the accomplishments of Serena Williams instead of the other way around.
Or maybe we don’t need to compare the greats at all. Maybe we can just chalk this up to the same competitive fire from Serena that would have her throw a second place trophy in the trash rather than put it on display in her home. Serena isn’t second to anyone. She’s one of one. And as her career winds down, I hope she can make peace with the idea that if anyone can say they had it all, it was her.
Serena Williams may have been defeated in the Wimbledon finals, however, that did not minimize her victory during the post-match press conference. A reporter asked Williams a very insensitive and narrow-minded question. In a nutshell, the reporter asked Williams how does she respond to comments made by others suggesting that she stop being a celebrity and fighting for equality and focus on tennis? Williams tackled the question head-on with the perfect answer. She eloquently responded by stating: “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.” With that response, Williams reaffirmed her unrelenting commitment to fighting for equality.
The reporter’s question is filled with undertones of a narrow-minded belief that his held by many sports fans.
The Shut-Up and Dribble Mentality
Many sports fans have the “shut up and dribble mentality”. They believe that athletes should simply stick to sports and essentially shut up and dribble. Such fans are against athletes using their athletic platforms to shed light on societal ills or political debates. They contend that athletes should simply focus on providing entertainment for fan viewing pleasure. These contentions may sound familiar as they were repeated over and over by dissenters of Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.
Some go as far as to contend that an athlete’s celebrity status shields them from the stereotypes and systemic prejudices of being a part of the demographic group(s) of which they belong. They spout out ignorance like what can a multi-million dollar athlete have to complain about. Serena Williams is a multi-million dollar athlete with 23 Grand Slam Finals wins. According to this logic, what could she possibly have to complain about? What issues could she possibly feel the need to be so vocal about? There is no way that she could possibly be a victim of discrimination or inequality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Serena Williams has plenty to be vocal about.
Serena Williams has Every Reason to Champion for Women’s Rights
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has dealt with negative commentary about her body. She has been shamed because of her muscles with comments from people saying that she was “born a guy“. Serena and her sister Venus have been referred to at the “Williams brothers“. Serena Williams’ body has even been compared to a monster truck. In 2018, Williams was arguably singled out when the French Tennis Federation announced their ban on catsuits shortly after Williams wore one to the FrenchOpen. Serena Williams wore the catsuit for health reasons from complications she suffered during childbirth. However, the Federation stated that players “must respect the game and the place.”
With all of the criticism that Williams has endured during her career, it should come as no surprise that she is a champion for women’s rights. Her celebrity status and her seven-figure salary was no shield for the incendiary comments from critics and tennis fans throughout her career. Her celebrity status was certainly not a shield to protect her from the blood clot issue she suffered during childbirth. All of the criticism Williams has endured coupled with the general struggles she as endured as a woman makes the reporter’s question all the more insensitive and her answer all the appropriate.
However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. This assumption is certainly not true for Serena Williams who has endured much criticism for being a superior black female athlete.
After all, professional athletes make millions of dollars. What could they possibly have to complain about?
In 2017’ just as LeBron James was embarking on his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals, a racial slur was spray-painted on his home in California. King James is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player ever and by some as one of the greatest athletes in the world. He has three NBA titles and has represented the United States on Team USA three times. However, all of his accomplishments was not enough to shield him the prejudices that are often directed to black men in this country. How is an athlete supposed to stick to sports when racial epithets are spray-painted on their home?
In what should only be referred to as epic, incredible, amazing, and awe-inspiring, Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon against tennis hero Roger Federer. For anyone who watched the match, this very well could be the greatest tennis match they have or will ever witness. Move aside Stranger Things. There’s a new talk in town!
It was two giants on the court, each refusing to surrender. Federer was at his best. His footwork and position was all-time and he utilized a serve-and-volley strategy to put Djokovic on his back heels. Djokovic, not to be outdone, was also on his game. Tirelessly extending points, placing the ball near the paint and displaying unmatched stamina.
Ultimately, there had to be a winner. And after 65 games and 3 tie-breakers, Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon and ousted legendary Roger Federer. He held his ground, defended his Grand Slam championship and won his fifth Wimbledon final. In winning this Grand Slam in such dramatic fashion against a legendary opponent, Novak further placed his name into the conversation for the tennis GOAT.
Djokovic Wins Wimbledon in Record Length
As the last ball hit off of Federer’s racket, the final time of the match was an impressive 4 hours and 55 minutes long. This final broke Federer and Nadal’s 2008 Wimbledon record to become the longest Wimbledon final in men’s tennis history. Winning a classic like this is what truly exemplifies champions. The best of the best are able to grind out the longest and most difficult wins. When Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon yesterday, he showed that he has the stamina to outlast his opponent in the most extreme circumstances.
Holding off the Crowd and a Possessed Federer
Surprisingly, Novak Djokovic did not appear to be the better player for the majority of the match. Just counting games and not tie-breakers, Federer outnumbered Djokovic’s total 36 to 29. Federer also shifted his strategy to a serve-and-volley tactic and utilized his net positioning throughout the match. He forced Djokovic to pass or lob him. To his credit, Federer has a double match point in the 15th game. 40/15 against the World’s number-one ranked tennis player and the returning Wimbledon champion. However, due to both error on Federer’s part and impressive resilience by Djokovic, Djokovic rallied back and broke Federer’s serve.
Also difficult was the clear crowd advantage. It was not difficult to see that the noise of the Wimbledon audience was in favor of the 37-year-old legend, Roger Federer. Each point he won was met with raucous applause, while Djokovic was made to be the enemy. The crowd wanted Federer to win. Federer was on his game. He had the crowd. But still, Djokovic won Wimbledon.
Breaking Federer’s serve, winning three separate tie-breakers and ignoring the crowd noise cement’s Djokovic’s name in tennis history.
Record Against Nadal and Federer
Through 48 matches played, Novak Djokovic leads 26-22 against Roger Federer. In Grand Slams, like this 2019 Wimbledon Match), Djokovic leads 10-6. Even more impressive, in his five Grand Slam finals against Federer, Djokovic won four of them.
Additionally, Djokovic leads his rivalry against Rafael Nadal 28-26. Though Nadal edges Djokovic in their Grand Slam matches 9-6, they are 4-4 in Grand Slam finals.
Grand Slam Titles
Moreover, Djokovic is moving towards both Nadal’s and Federer’s Grand Slam totals. Nadal, in second, has 18 and Federer leads all men with 20. After Djokovic won Wimbledon yesterday, he moved his total up to 16. Since 2015, Djokovic has 9 Grand Slam championships.
He continues to display unbeatable stamina, beats the legends of the court, and shows that he can become the greatest tennis player of all time.