Serena Williams – An Appreciation and a Lament


Full disclosure: I have not always been a Serena fan.

Not because she’s “manly”.

Not because she’s “classless”.

Not because she’s “hood”.

My ambivalence towards her was purely sporting. It always seemed like she wasn’t quite living up to her potential. And now I realize that was churlish.

She went through a few years of injuries which would have ended most careers. And those injuries, and her recovery from them, seemed to revitalize her.

She came back stronger. She came back with a fierce determination. She came back with a renewed love of her game.

She came back to dominate a sport in a manner which no other athlete has.

Jordan hasn’t. Mayweather hasn’t. Tiger hasn’t.

What Serena has done in the past few years, and seems bent on doing for a few years more, is nothing short of miraculous. We haven’t seen the like in modern sports.


Just shy of her 34th birthday, at age at which the hunters from “Logan’s Run” should have already done their business, she is playing better with every match. No one can stand against her. When she loses it’s headline news, because it seems as if she’s forgotten how to lose. I came to the realization earlier this year that she has a chance to be a competitive force on the WTA into her late 30s – early 40s. And by “competitive”, I mean that she’ll still win Grand Slams.

Any other athlete would be lauded, rose petals would be strewn before her feet, she’d be lionized.

But not Serena.

Much like our first black President, nothing she does is ever good enough. As at the beginning of this essay, she looks different, or acts differently, or is classless, or is “hood”.

Like Barack Obama, her accomplishments have to be derided and denied. She has to be taken down several pegs. She has to be put in her place.

She is the most dominant athlete in any sport. Yet her “rival”, Maria Sharapova, makes much more money than her in endorsements. The reason is obvious.

Serena Williams stormed into a sport which had known only two great black players – Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson – from the public courts of Compton, and refused to play by the established rules. She didn’t change who she was. Her joy shook the world when she won, as did her anger when she lost. She doesn’t suffer fools. She doesn’t hide behind a polite, bland facade. She is who she is.

And that, of course, is not allowed. Her femininity has to be questioned. Her very humanity has to be brought into ill-repute. She and her sister didn’t play at the Indian Wells tournament for a decade because of the racist abuse heaped upon them. She is, in the end, human. Prick her and she bleeds.

Serena Williams of the United States holds up the trophy after winning the women's singles final against Garbine Muguruza of Spain, at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday July 11, 2015. Williams won 6-4, 6-4. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Serena should be the most highly paid woman in tennis. She’s not. Other, “prettier” faces get the endorsements. She’ll just have to satisfy herself with being peerless, with reminding all those pretty faces that they can’t stand against her in the one arena where it matters, and that long after their names have faded into dust, hers will stand in the record books.

That is, in the end, the supreme consolation. The judgment of history.

95 Responses to “Serena Williams – An Appreciation and a Lament”

  1. July 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Very thoughtful, LL. A lovely tribute!!

    • 2 Betsy
      July 11, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Congrats on first!! I’ve been in bed with a sinus infection or I’d have congratulated you earlier.

  2. 3 globalcitizenlinda
    July 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    congratulations Serena!

  3. July 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

  4. 8 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Another Brilliant post, LL.
    Doc Bobfr has the Solid Au ⭐ Congrats, Yes!

  5. 10 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Congrats to Globalcitizenlinda for the tie with Doc Bobfr for the Gold Medal. The Doc had two Gold Medals. 😉

  6. July 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Hope you enjoy the post, folks. I must now attend to laundry. A house-husband’s work is never done.

    • 12 Puddin'
      July 11, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Serena is a beautiful black woman, who is also bold,strong and fierce!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Serena is a winner even when she loses, because she is still in the game (against all odds from the very beginning). Serena Williams is my hero!!!!

    • 13 Betsy
      July 11, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Brilliant essay. You always have me in awe with your words. Thank you.

  7. July 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

  8. July 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Lovely piece LL. I used to find the coverage of Tiger disturbing, but it’s nothing compared to what Serena has endured. I don’t even care about the scumbag racists tweeting their hate, it’s the establishment – people like Navratilova and Evert – who either don’t credit her achievements at all, or do so through gritted teeth. Navratilova’s face at the end of today’s final was a sight, it was like she was sucking a lemon.

    I was going on this morning about Navratilova, a busy tweeter, not even commenting on Serena’s French Open win, but finding the time that day to tweet about the Kentucky Derby. And this Wimbledon, about the only thing she had to say was to criticize Serena for wearing her headphones on to court (which lots of players do)….

    … which, of course, was lapped up by those who say Serena is ‘disrespectful’. The ultimate code word, that. Disrespectful to whom? The tennis establishment? Ah, yes……

    • 16 Nena20409
      July 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      More like……in Codes, that is…..she isn’t Trained……Mannered…….The word they want to say or use is Animal.
      Hate is a Mental Disease. Thank goodness, with LOVE, they can be cured instantly…….but they must allow ❤ ❤ ❤ in to be cured.

    • 17 Don
      July 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      You are so right, Chipsticks, I remember a golfer telling Tiger not to serve fried chicken at the Champions Dinner after he won at Augusta one year.

      • July 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm

        Ugh, that was Fuzzy Zoeller, Don, lowlife racist crap.

        The thing that got me most about the coverage of Tiger in the early days was the focus on his father and his obsessive determination for Tiger to be a great. That kind of fitted their narrative, that Tiger’s story was freakish, not the norm, and that Tiger himself was a freak. Half the people in professional sport (probably more) had obsessive parents who robbed them of their childhood just so they could live out their dreams. Rory McIlroy’s parents are no different, but you never hear too much about them, it’s been an entirely different narrative for him.

        And then the media’s obsession with Tiger’s private life and the discovery that he may not be a wonderful human being – when did that ever worry them before when covering sports people?

  9. July 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Oh I loved what J.K. Rowling tweeted to some idiot who talk about Serena was built like a man. Rowling had a picture of Serena in that red dress and it said”@diegtristan8 “she is built like a man”. Yeah, and my husband look just like this in a dress, You’re an idiot. Thank you for that J.K. Rowling.

  10. July 11, 2015 at 1:34 pm


  11. 21 Don
    July 11, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Good read LL, but I must disagree with you on one point, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods completely changed and dominated the game of golf since his arrival on the scene. I’m not talking about just dominating the game; he had over a twenty-five percent win rate. That means he won one in four times every time he showed up at a tournament. Tiger demoralized the field, much the same way Serena is doing now. Tiger and Serena’s fathers were both self-taught men, they both taught their children the game the way they wanted to. I love me some Richard Williams, I can’t get enough of Richard Williams. Though Tiger hasn’t done much in the last few years, I do believe he will win more majors before it’s all said and done. Serena was completed changed the game, I believe she is the best ever, people forget that Venus has five Wimbledon titles, that’s right, five. And it’s hard to believe that both Serena and Venus aren’t finished winning.

    • July 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Oh, no doubt Tiger changed the game. Changed it so much that tournaments were “Tiger-proofed”.

      But, the one thing Serena has been able to do that Tiger hasn’t is to come back from her injuries and dominate. I hope Tiger wins again. But right now I think it’s more mental with him than anything.

      • 23 Don
        July 11, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        Yep, the mental part of Tiger’s game is what set him apart. But Serena’s mental game is unmatched by any athlete playing any sport these days.

      • July 11, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        I will NEVER forget…

        the first that that Tiger won AUGUSTA…


        UH HUH

        UH HUH

  12. 25 Dudette
    July 11, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    There it is!

    “… long after their names have faded into dust, hers will stand in the record books.”

    Excellent essay, LL!

  13. July 11, 2015 at 1:36 pm

  14. 27 Dudette
    July 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

  15. July 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I’m looking at the row of blue blazers behind her. Is there a black face among them…? (There is only one even brown, far as I can see.) And they certainly seem to be “containing their enthusiasm” – only the woman is even smiling. And thus is confirmed everything LL has written about Serena, AND about PBO. One might argue, “That’s just the Brits,” or “That’s just tennis.” But look at the photos of the crowds at little Princess Charlotte’s christening: Painted faces, yelling and hollering, unbridled, hysterical joy. WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH US?

  16. 29 a4alice
    July 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    really great piece LL. ! 🙂

  17. 30 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm

  18. 32 desertflower
    July 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    She is an undisputed champion. The fact that some try to marginalize not just her, but her achievements, says more about them than they realize. She is a talented, strong, beautiful woman. An AA woman at that. Some people just have a hard time dealing with success that fierce. Their problem.

  19. 33 Dudette
    July 11, 2015 at 1:46 pm

  20. 38 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 1:47 pm

  21. July 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Well, this is fun. Just tweaked my back something fierce. How? Lifting up a fucking laundry basket. I need Serena to come be my trainer.

  22. July 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Disqualifications in track are painful to watch.

  23. July 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Welp ……

  24. July 11, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Oh, and as always, text is by LL, images provided by Nerdy.

    • July 11, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Nice attribution, LL. Thank you NW for the image selection!

    • 58 Nerdy Wonka
      July 11, 2015 at 3:14 pm


      You’re welcome, LL. It was fun finding images for such a great post. 🙂

      “Serena should be the most highly paid woman in tennis. She’s not. Other, “prettier” faces get the endorsements. She’ll just have to satisfy herself with being peerless, with reminding all those pretty faces that they can’t stand against her in the one arena where it matters, and that long after their names have faded into dust, hers will stand in the record books.” – Bravo, bravo, bravo, sir!

  25. July 11, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Hot women running track and competing in field events on BeIN Sports right now. I’m in a good happy place.

  26. 60 Dudette
    July 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Don’t think I have that network. Who got the DQ?

  27. July 11, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Oh dear, another DQ, this time in the men’s 100m.

    • 64 Dudette
      July 11, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Dang! Another one? You’d think the runners would be sitting on the blocks after the other one.

  28. July 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Hah! The guy getting DQ’d is making the same argument that the lady did. Something wrong on the track.

  29. July 11, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    For all you athletics aficionados, remember that next month the World Championships will be held in Beijing. Aug 22-30.

  30. July 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Another false start. Man.

  31. July 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Oh, this is ridiculous, 2 false starts in the same heat.

  32. July 11, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Ok… I think my back is sorted out. Back to laundry. See y’all later.

  33. July 11, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Great tribute to Serena, LL.

  34. 75 Allison
    July 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Serena is awesome. Good tribute to her.

  35. July 11, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Do anyone plan to watch Trump speech and his press conference today?

  36. 80 Anna
    July 11, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Congratulations Serena, you are awesome! To those that say Serena is “manly”, STOP with the bullying, shame on you nyt for doing it publicly.

  37. 81 Vicki
    July 11, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I thought no form of racism could surprise me. At my age.
    “Serena looks like a man!!!!!” WTF. No. No, she doesn’t. Serena Williams looks like a strong fit athletic woman which by the way is what she is.

    • 82 jackiegrumbacher
      July 11, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      It’s absurd, Vicki. Since when are women tennis players supposed to be sylph like fashion models who swan around the court? Those who criticize her could only wish they had her build and endurance.

  38. 83 mophene
    July 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Excellent post LL.

  39. 84 jacquelineoboomer
    July 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    One of the guest pundits on MSNBC this morning mentioned Donald Trump “is all about saving face.” His face. So I thought I’d draft a speech for him, incorporating things I’d like to hear.

    “I, Donald Trump (aka The Donald aka expletives deleted) am withdrawing as a candidate for the presidential run in 2016. It is not that I am not the best candidate, I am. In fact, I see myself as the only candidate who can fix America, which is now broken and broke. The other candidates are losers. All candidates in previous elections are losers. And dumb. Really, really dumb. But I digress. I am withdrawing because I, as a multi-billionaire, am too good for this country. And the country is really, really dumb. Other than a couple of my wives, past and present, who don’t count because they’re with me, many people here speak with accents. I’m not sure all of them are documented. I can see it in their eyes. Many people here are not billionaires or even millionaires. They’re losers. They don’t deserve me. I thought they did, I thought I could save them and the country, but I have decided it’s too late. People are stupid. Corporations like Macy’s and NASCAR and NBC are stupid. Really, really stupid. And don’t get me started on The Hispanics or The Blacks, whom I love, and have thousands of them working for me. I have more money than any of you could ever imagine having, and I don’t need the money I lost following my remarks on the illegals – all true, by the way. Don’t get me started on the other candidates, they’re dumb. Hillary I’ve known and contributed to, from my richness, because I contribute to everybody, that’s how it’s done. I’ve enjoyed having the pretty news reporters interview me, while I told them they were stupid. Pretty, but stupid. But none of them deserve me, although I love the Mexican people, and Putin loves me, and I could bring back all the jobs from China and Mexico, and I love all the documented people who are working on my hotels, and if you know of any who are undocumented, give us their names. My family did not ask me to withdraw, because they know I’m the only one who can save America. Plus they are all really, really rich because of me, although it’s tacky to say how rich we are. Let’s just say we are not losers. Like the country. And the Mexican government – not the Mexican people – I love them, if they have documents. It’s all the governments. I’m done. This is done. I don’t shake hands with other people, and people keep expecting that. Unwashed people. I’d like a letter of apology. Oh, and, everybody (even you loser reporters, and especially you pretty blonde loser reporters) gets a gold coin to mark this GREAT occasion of my withdrawal. I’m not quitting; I’m firing myself. You are all losers. Are we done?”

    • 85 jackiegrumbacher
      July 11, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      This sounds just about perfect, JO’B. You should send it to him. Of course, what I’d really like him to do is tell us the Republican Party is dumb and he’s running as an Independent!

      • 86 jacquelineoboomer
        July 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        Me, too, jackieG. But my head hurts thinking about ever hearing him SPEAK again, so I’ll try to read-all-about-it!

  40. 87 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 3:08 pm

  41. July 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    A flash from the past:

  42. 90 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm

  43. 91 Nena20409
    July 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

  44. July 11, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Love this post. Thanks LL.

  45. 94 hopefruit2
    July 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Just catching up on this excellent reflection on Serena,the legend and the legacy… thanks LL! 🙂 🙂

  46. 95 sjterrid
    July 11, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks for the great post, LL & thanks to you, NW, for the great photos.

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