Serena Williams retires amid a media blitz      
Serena Williams (Photo credit: cnbc.com)
 
Serena Williams (Photo credit: cnbc.com)  

By Vanessa Cort
SHE changed the ‘face’ of tennis over her more than two decades in the sport. Needless to say she has also been a source of inspiration and a shining example to young women and girls around the world, particularly women of colour. But most of all she has been hailed as the GOAT (The Greatest of All Time) because of her formidable ability, winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the course of her illustrious career.

Since announcing her intended retirement after the last major tournament of the year – the US Open – Serena Williams has received a veritable firestorm of media attention, countless accolades from fellow players and fond farewells from fans across the globe.

The term Grand Slam refers to the four major tennis tournaments played each year – The Australian Open, Wimbledon, The French Open and the US Open –  in that order.

Having won in the first two rounds of the current US Open, Serena, resplendent in black and glittering silver, fought for every point in a third-round match which she eventually lost.  Her fans, who crowded the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York and gathered outside, were not disappointed, cheering every winning shot and according her a standing ovation at the end of the match. They knew that she put up a valiant battle in true Serena-style and no doubt agreed with her when, between smiles and tears in an after-match interview, she said, “It’s been the most incredible ride”.

With one of the most powerful serves and service returns in tennis, Serena Williams elevated the sport using her consummate skill and agility on the court and her ‘never say die’ attitude. She has won over crowds who at first did not support her and charmed those who did, with her intense focus and her knack of turning around games going against her.

Indeed the tennis icon has had her fair share of controversy and criticism over the years. But instead of daunting her, the negative comments have seemed to fuel her determination to reign supreme in the sport, proving the naysayers wrong.

Her nimble movements on court put the lie to those who said she was too ‘heavy’ to be a success in the game and her victory in the 2017 Australian Open, made those who said that at 35 years she was too old, ‘eat their words’, especially after it was later revealed that she was two months pregnant at the time.

But beyond all of this, Serena and her sister, Venus, have achieved dominance in a sport with minimal participation by people of colour. They have paved the way for others like the up-and-coming young player, Coco Gauff, the talented, Sloane Stevens and the indomitable, Leylah Fernandes.

While she has not been able to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, the tennis star noted that she had nothing to prove in these latter games and was playing for the sheer enjoyment of it. Simply winning all four Grand Slams is tough enough, but doing this on 23 occasions is nothing short of incredible and as of July 11 this year Statista Research Department announced that, “Serena Williams has won the most Grand Slam titles of all time during her career.”

She leaves an indelible mark on the world of tennis and can be proud that she has gone down in the history books as one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

In a tearful social media post one fan credited the tennis great with being an inspiration to herself and so many other young women, a sentiment that was shared by, Ajla Tomljanovic, the winner of the third round match Serena lost. The youthful player considered it an honour to have played ‘the queen of tennis’ saying, “the game will not be the same without her”.

And in a moving tribute, former First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama, said, “Serena, thank you for everything you’ve done to break down barriers and be a positive light in this world…. It has meant so much to follow your journey as an athlete, as a mother, as a business leader and more. I would add, as a ‘fashion diva’, who made the announcement with a fabulous spread in the September issue of top fashion magazine, Vogue, along with an op-ed telling us, ‘I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.’ I am sure that people all over the world who have heard the name, Serena Williams, and the millions of fans who have watched her play will be sad to see her go, as am I.”

And I join Michelle Obama as she says, “I wish you (Serena) the best as you evolve into this next chapter” and agree with tennis commentator, Rob Costas, who was certain  that Serena Williams will be remembered for “her great wins”.

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