Every week, check out Freelance Friday, featuring a rising journalist who is (ahem) a few decades younger than me. See their take on . . . whatever. This week, Freelance Friday will appear on Monday.
BY CHRISTIAN CRITTENDEN
Serena Williams is the most disrespected and underappreciated athlete of all-time. Even though she has been fighting those stigmas her entire tennis career, she always finds ways to overcome them.
How great is Williams, looking toward the U.S. Open next month in New York City with hopes for a 24th grand slam victory? Only Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson join her among history’s elite of the elite among athletes, and here’s why she’s in that trio: Despite everything, ranging from the haters in her world to her 36 years on earth, she continues to dominate her sport every time she steps on the court.
The haters talk about her body that is significantly more muscular than those of her counterparts. She also is African-American in a sport typically dominated by Caucasians, and yes, she has encountered more than a few racist situations since picking up her first racket in Compton, Calif. Then there is her age. Tennis players usually are on a steep decline by their late 20s, but she is the exception.
Everybody saw just that a couple of weeks ago when Williams added to her accomplishments and this was her best one yet. She nearly won the Wimbledon tournament despite giving birth 10 months ago.
There was no guarantee Williams would even play again, let alone compete for a grand slam. She almost died after delivering her daughter. She suffered from a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lung become blocked by blood clots. She had several other complications that she explained in an interview with Vogue magazine.
It was difficult for Williams to walk to the mailbox during her recovery, but she fought through it. When she entered Wimbledon, she was a long shot to reach her 30th grand slam final, but she did it. Despite her loss to Angelique Kerber in the final, she further proved her greatness by just getting there. Her critics couldn’t care less. They’re always too busy blasting her physique, and there is no secret she is built thickly due to genetics, especially in comparison to pretty much all of her opponents.
In 2015, Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev was on a television show in his country when he referred to Williams, along with her sister, Venus, as the “Williams brothers.”
“It’s frightening when you look at them, but really you just need to play against the ball,” Tarpischev said later in the interview, according to ESPN.
You can blame such remarks on envy. Williams has played in 30 grand slam finals, and she is 23-7. She turned pro in 1995, and since then, she has a career record of 785-129. Additionally, her 23 victories in grand slams are second all-time behind Margaret Court’s 24. Williams also has completed, two “Serena Slams,” which is winning all four major titles consecutive.
If that’s not enough to infuriate the Serena haters, there is this: Williams knows how great she is, and so does her competition. Every time she steps onto the court, she realizes her opponents will bring their absolute best.
"So it’s like, you know what, my level, if it weren’t high, I wouldn’t be who I am,” Williams told reporters during this year’s Wimbledon. “I had to raise my level to be unknown because they’re playing me at a level that’s unknown. Yeah, I’m used to it.”
Williams also is used to the haters, and you see the results.
Not good for the haters.
Christian Crittenden is a junior at Georgia State University majoring in Journalism and minoring in marketing. He is a staff writer for The Signal, where he is the women's basketball beat writer. In his free time, he hosts the "Average Sports Guy” Podcast on SoundCloud.