WIMBLEDON, England — She kept bringing up names of those in sports for whom success had not been diminished by the passing of years, names such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and, in her own game, Roger Federer.
Technology, Serena Williams said when asked how at 37 she’s playing like she was at 27. Technology has lengthened her career.
“It’s not just me,” she pointed out, “there are so many athletes able to do better and play longer. Some even play some of their best way after 30.”
Whether Serena is at her best this Wimbledon is subjective, but as she showed Thursday she’s damn good, needing only 59 minutes to defeat Barbora Strycova, 6-1, 6-2, on Centre Court in one of the two semifinals.
The other wasn’t much longer — 1 hour 13 minutes — or much more competitive, Simona Halep overwhelming Elina Svitolina, 6-1, 6-3. The final on Saturday will be between a woman who’s been there and done that — this is the Serena’s 11th at Wimbledon — and another who hasn’t.
It also means that Williams, with her lasting power and strong serves, has yet another opportunity to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles championships and win an eighth Wimbledon.
Halep has won a French Open, but she never had been past the semis at Wimbledon until now and is 1-9 against Serena in 10 matches between them. Yet, Halep, insisted, “Everything is possible.”
Tell that to Strycova. “She hits the ball so hard,” Strycova said of Williams. “Right away, it’s coming back at you so fast.”
Serena has been coming back at tennis for years — her first Wimbledon final was 2002.
“I have a great job,” she pointed out. “I love what I do.”
The new world order of sports, training techniques, huge payoffs and, yes, technology, has enabled her to do it when in another era she might have departed, especially having become a mother two years ago.
“Things I do different now than when I was first on tour,” said Williams, “have lengthened my career. It’s not just me, it’s Roger (who at 37 is in the semifinals this Wimbledon), Tom Brady, Peyton ... Tiger (Woods), what he did at the Masters was on the top of my mind. Those athletes are incredibly inspiring. That’s one thing that keeps me moving forward.”
Williams will be 38 in September. Her sister, Venus, a multiple champion who continues to enter tournaments, is 39. But there’s a difference in playing at an age that in sports would be considered old and in succeeding.
So Serena was asked how she finds the “inner strength.”
“I don’t know,” said Williams. “I was thinking about it. I’ve been to a lot of semis and finals since I came back from the baby.” Alexis, her daughter, was born in September 2017.
So often — too often — athletes are asked why they don’t retire. Because that’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done, play a sport and usually play it wonderfully.
As the great Joe Montana, who quarterbacked the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, responded, “Because when I retire I’ll be finished with football.”
Serena Williams is far from finished with tennis. She’s overcome injuries — the last one, a bad knee, plagued her until just before Wimbledon — overcome her anger with officials, overcome some of the great players of the era.
She has those 23 Slams, but the last one was the 2017 Australian Open, some two and a half years ago. Time is fleeting. Or is it?
“It’s really not about 24 of 23 or 25,” she said, alluding to Grand Slam titles. “It’s really about going out there and giving my best effort no matter what. No matter what I do (from now), I will always have a great career.”
A career, she said, that was enhanced by joining up with another Wimbledon singles champ, Andy Murray, to play mixed doubles this tournament.
“I kept telling you guys I thought the doubles would help me. I don’t attack the net that much. I tried to, and I want to. I don’t know if I’ve had my best serves this tournament. I’ve had some big ones. Just now I'm starting to use my legs again.”
Serena grew up in one of the tough suburbs of Los Angeles, so when someone wanted to know if the grass of the Wimbledon courts was slower than in past years, she shook her head and said, “I’m from Compton, and everything here is, like, amazing.”
Especially ageless Serena Williams.