It’s hard to imagine how Serena Williams would end her career. There’s always the US Open, where she won her first Grand Slam, where she’s rightly revered, where some of her biggest wins came. And yet it’s hard to see the US Open going much better than Wimbledon, where she lost in three sets to Harmony Tan in the first round yesterday. Sure, he’ll get more game time and go to New York a little more polished. But for someone like Serena, losing in the third round probably isn’t too different from the first.
Williams fought back from a break in the first set, served for match in the third and won the first four points of the third set tiebreak. None of that was enough. In many ways, Tan was the worst type of player Serena could face. Lacking anywhere near the strength to punch through Serena, Tan was basically a junkie throwing various slices, drops, lobs, and anything else she could find in the kitchen sink. Lacking tour-level singles timing (she only played doubles this year in preparation for Wimbledon), Serena was never able to find any speed that consistently came her way, and she also had to run more than side to side. to the side but to the net and back as Tan brought it in and then sent it back. There’s no way to be fit without being on court, and Serena hasn’t been on court in a singles match since the first round of Wimbledon last year. That was the game when she tore her hamstring and she’s been out since training in Eastbourne. Despite a dominant second set, she won the third set 6-1, so the hard miles Tan has put her through are taking their toll. Serena looked, but the boulder always came back down the hill.
Serena doesn’t seem to know what the future holds, and we can be sure she’ll do whatever she wants, as she always does. We all had the idea of Serena picking up #24 and then striding off into a good night as best she could. But her body can’t seem to take it. Then again, few people do it. Pete Sampras made a lot of people think it could always work out that way when he called it a day after his US Open triumph. But that’s an exception.
It’s the kind of exit we can probably expect from Roger Federer, whether he returns in the fall, as he’s indicated, or next year, and he’s gone either way. At the same age as Serena, he faces three knee surgeries and an even bigger gap. There’s only so much you can ask. Rafael Nadal is likely to see his career cut short by his deteriorating foot, although recent surgery has offered a glimmer of hope. Andre Agassi was barely able to walk away from Arthur Ashe with a back injury as he played his last match. Hell, Boris Becker is in jail!
Serena’s determination and fitness have allowed her to take to the court at the age of 40, even though it would have seemed unimaginable to someone five or ten years ago. These things are a big reason why she is the greatest player of all time and at 30 years old, she is never going to just quit. But there’s playing when you’re 40, and there’s being Serena when you’re 40. No one has done the latter, not even Serena.
If it is to be the end, the fact that she got back out there at all and can end her career with a racket in her hand instead of from a training table somewhere is a win in itself. Everyone should at least get to go out on their shield.
Dollars & some change
If you’d like to see how serious change can take place in sports when it comes to sexual assault and the cover-ups of it, look at Hockey Canada at the moment. Just yesterday, corporations like Telus, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank receive various sponsorships and money from Hockey Canada because of fallout from a lawsuit the organization settled to drop allegations that eight Hockey Canada players raped a woman at a Hockey Canada golf outing.
One might wonder what would have been Dan Snyder’s fate if more than Anheuser-Busch refused work with a team. Or if gambling companies, beer companies, and pill companies decided to suspend their controls if they didn’t think the impending punishment for Deshaun Watson was enough. Cash is the only thing that speaks to these people, maybe the only way.