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Serena Williams: The greatest to ever play the game

 
Serena Williams plays at the 2013 French Open, which she later won defeating Maria Sharapova. 

Serena Williams plays at the 2013 French Open, which she later won defeating Maria Sharapova. 

Words by George Kipling

Images by Yann Caradec

Tennis star Serena Williams recently posted a picture of herself online, pregnant stomach and all, with the caption “20 weeks”.

She’s always stood out - partly due to being a black woman in a predominantly white sport - and also due to her own actions. The negative ones have garnered the most attention. She’s been brash, outspoken, unruly and even outright defiant, but those reasons are the same ones why she was able to rack up Grand Slam title after title, all the way up to the 23rd one she won this past January at the Australian Open. That one passed Steffi Graf’s 22 for the Open Era record and put her one behind Margaret Court for the all time singles record.

So with motherhood pending as well as a current engagement, and the fact that she’s 35 years of age, this could be the end of her career. And what a career it has been.

She’s been criticized, and rightfully so, for not making tennis her number one priority and taking sabbaticals throughout her career. But maybe she was correct in doing so, as many of her contemporaries – Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and more –  were all long gone before Serena, due to pregnancy, injury and burnout, while Ms. Williams kept going and is #1 in her mid 30’s.

She was chastised acutely for her meltdown in the 2009 US Open but never received praise for the grace she showed handling multiple horrendous line calls against her which aided her loss in her 2004 US Open quarterfinal.

Still, she never cheated like Henin (who did so in her defeat of Serena in the 2003 Roland Garros semi final) or was caught using banned drugs like main stream favourite Maria Sharapova who Williams has beaten like a drum since her only loss to Maria in the 2004 Wimbledon final, but somehow their respective characters is lauded and held in higher esteem than Serena’s. 

She wasn’t perfect, but she wasn’t a devil. She stood up against racism (by not playing in Indian Wells, California for years), could be crass and more. But she was also a winner. One of – and quite possibly – the greatest female to ever play the game.