No question, Serena Williams is the greatest women’s tennis player ever. She combines flair with skill. She owns a record 23 career Grand Slam titles in the professional era since 1968, and she’s loaded. On the Forbes’ 2022 list of America’s self-made women, she ranks 90th at $260 million.
She doesn’t need to keep playing.
She should retire now — just before another serving of strawberries and cream this week at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
She’s 40, and in tennis years, that’s slightly shy of deceased, especially when you consider reigning Wimbledon champ Ash Barty retired in March at 25.
Not only that, but Williams hasn’t won a major tournament since the Australian Open five years ago. She hasn’t played an official singles match of any kind since she damaged her right leg in June 2021 after she slipped on the slick Centre Court grass at Wimbledon during the opening set of her first match.
So, this is cringeworthy: Despite Williams spending most of the past 12 months recovering from that injury (while operating her 60 or so startups through her firm Serena Ventures, dealing with more than a dozen corporate partners, and doing a bunch of other things not associated with serving or volleying), she is slated to walk onto the famous Wimbledon grass Tuesday.
I know what many Williams Worshipers are saying: She joined Ons Jabeur of Tunisia last week in doubles competition to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and Marie Bouzkova of Czechia 2-6, 6-3, 13-11 during the Rothesay International tournament at Eastbourne, England.
Even so, Williams suggested that victory meant nothing in the big picture of Serena trying to become Serena again.
“It’s doubles. I’m only playing half of the court, but I’ve been doing a lot of training, and so it definitely feels good,” Williams told reporters later. “You know what? I’m literally taking it one day at a time. I really took my time with my hamstring injury, so I’m just not making a ton of decisions after this.”
Williams sounded like what she is: A fading superstar who only gained entry into Wimbledon this year as a wild-card entry.
Uh oh, indeed.
Willie Mays ended his last moments of playing Major League Baseball stumbling around the same center field he once patrolled with grace.
When Muhammad Ali met Trevor Berbick for his final boxing match, The Greatest on that night wasn’t the guy who went from stinging like a bee to punching like your grandmother.
Let’s just say Michael Jordan had no business wearing a Washington Wizards uniform (I still can’t believe he missed that break-away dunk in the 2002 NBA All-Star Game) after his two stints of greatness with the Chicago Bulls.
Did he just throw another interception?
Which brings us back to Williams, fading sports icons and the following question: Ever hear of somebody named Harmony Tan? Well, she’s ranked 113th in the world among tennis players, and her coach is somebody named Sam Sumyk.
It seems Sumyk has jokes.
When it comes to Tan versus Williams (a seven-time winner in singles at the All England Club), Sumyk told tennismajors.com of Tan, his 24-year-old Wimbledon rookie, “We’re not just going there with a smile on our faces and the satisfaction of being there. Hey, we’re going there to beat Serena, after all.”