Yesterday, at around eight in the morning, Serena Williams (Saginaw, United States; 40 years old) woke up in the luxurious residence she owns in New York and at half past nine she entered a tinted glass van at the Billie Jean complex King. At that moment, who knows, perhaps she undertook what could have been the last training session of an infinite list that began when Papa Williams introduced her to her – quoted today at her premiere with Montenegrin Danka Kovinic; 1.00, Eurosport– and her sister Venus in the test tube and started the experiment.
A select circle contemplated the session with melancholy and tennis, in general, had glassy eyes because the dates fly, the tick-tock does not forgive and attends a very painful countdown: Serena leaves, an era closes. The last great dominatrix and one of the great modern myths is leaving; The hinges of a door are already sounding that many feared would open and through which, sooner rather than later, giants like Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, also a Swiss man in his forties, will parade; other heroines crossed the frame before, but none as hyperbolic or as excessive as her, The Queen. The Queen.
“He is at the height of Michael Jordan, of LeBron James, of Tom Brady. She is one of the great athletes in history. Everything she has done to be where she is is impressive; she is exactly where she deserves. She is an extraordinary tennis player, but above all she is an icon”, John McEnroe conceded these days, in the unanimous line that describes her as a transcendental, complex, marketing and extreme character, because in good times and bad she always caressed the poles ; in any case, as a reference that goes far beyond the fierce competitor and the hyper-awarded winner of the last two decades. At the age of three, Williams was already holding a racket and since then she has not stopped breaking the mold, a child prodigy first, then a devastating champion and a rebel, committed, controversial, businesswoman and mother along a path recently taken to the cinema.
His career, in fact his own life, traveled from the beginning on exceptionality. Raised in a Los Angeles suburb, those who know her closely say that Compton has always been inside her. There, one of her five sisters was shot dead and one of her vital turning points occurred: she has always carried that fire within her. The codes of the neighborhood have never abandoned it.
“In the locker room, she and Venus have always stepped very hard, to put it in some way,” transmits a person integrated into the circuit for three decades. “It is clear that she is special, that she has particular behaviors and that, surely, has led her to get where she has. Ever since she was young, she and her sister were intimidating just by her presence, though mostly her. I remember that many times they would go through the corridors and if the others did not move away when they passed, they had no qualms about giving them a shove with the racket bag or throwing a defiant look. It was a way of saying: ‘We have arrived, here we are’ and there is no one to stop us. That’s how her mentality has been, until the end ”, expands said source.
Venus and Serena, during a doubles match at Roland Garros in 2018.THOMAS SAMSON (AFP)
And a prestigious coach who prefers to remain anonymous emphasizes the arrogance: “They have their own laws, they have always distanced themselves. In some situations that I have witnessed they have acted in a particular way, surely because of the education they have received. Apart from this, in sporting terms we are talking about one of the best players in history and a unique personality”.
The great modern bastion
Family is the backbone of Williams’ career. Her father Richard molded her, squeezed her and launched her, but her mother Oracene and her sisters – in addition to their inseparable puppies – have been fundamental in establishing the iron fence of soul that has kept the appetite intact and has guaranteed the collection of hits. : 23 majors, 73 singles titles and another 23 in doubles, apart from many other merits –four Olympic golds (one solo), Federation Cup…– and the 319 weeks he has been at the top. Wherever they go, wherever they are, they are a recognizable pineapple. Always hand in hand with Venus (42 years old), both will fight one last time as a couple, something that has not happened since 2018.
Serena, this week during a visit to the New York Stock Exchange.Michael Nagle (Bloomberg)
“Serena’s last dance”, advances the organizer of the circuit, the WTA, which at its birth (1973) had the providential leadership of Billie Jean King in promoting the circuit and in defending the rights of women tennis players, and that in modern times found in Serena the best projection element. Ideological, media and commercial bastion, with the American the contracts multiplied and her speaker capitalized on the demand for equal pay with men.
“It has meant a lot for tennis in general; not only for the feminine, but also for the masculine. It has transcended in sport and has brought tennis to television in countries where it was not seen, ”values the Swedish Mats Wilander. “If it weren’t for her and for Venus, I wouldn’t have been a tennis player,” compatriot Coco Gauff recently acknowledged. “Before her there was not really such an icon [refiriéndose a su color de piel]. It has not dominated in one generation or in two, but in three, and that is something that no one has achieved, “adds the 18-year-old, identified with Serena’s ambassador profile (sport beyond sport), her inspiring role (being the same despite the circumstances) and her activism in the fight against racism.
“She is more than an athlete”
There remains the historical sit-in of her, Venus and her family at the tournament in Indian Wells (California), where they were booed in 2001. “It was a day that embarrassed America,” wrote Richard Williams in his book Black and White. The absence lasted 14 years. “Now I’m ready”, he argued upon her return; “It is time to say: ‘We, as a people, as Americans, can be better. If your social position allows you to stand up and speak, to be an example, why not do it?
Serena, in 2017 during a match in Melbourne. Andy Brownbill (AP)
A Jehovah’s Witness, it was rumored about a possible friendship with former President Donald Trump, although in 2016 he distanced himself. “I don’t vote, I don’t do it because of my religion. I am not involved in politics at all, ”she exposed while McEnroe recounted that the former US president had offered him a million dollars if he played a game against her. “In Palm Beach [donde ambos coincidían como vecinos] everyone knows each other”, added Williams, whose sports work is ending and continues to collect praise as the fuse runs out towards the final goodbye, which he advanced on August 9 through a writing in Vogue magazine.
“He changed the sport, I am very grateful to him. She is the greatest force in the sport, the greatest there will ever be, ”praises her friend Naomi Osaka; like Gauff, another feisty heiress. “I try to imitate the way she had to use her position and to intimidate being number one,” confesses the Polish Iga Swiatek. “She is not just an athlete, she is a legend; a great ambassador of our sport who broke records”, praises Rafael Nadal. And look at her watch, she, who has finished the last cartridge before sealing a very long trip that ends in the family, of course. “I formed one of her and I want to make her grow”, concludes the genuine Serena.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.