Serena Williams won Wimbledon again this morning. Again again. Again for the sixth time. Serena Williams won Wimbledon again this morning, meaning she won her fourth Grand Slam in a row, and her 21st Grand Slam overall. Serena Williams won her 21st Grand Slam overall this morning, meaning she has won the same number of Grand Slams as every other active tennis player combined. Serena Williams won Wimbledon again this morning; she is the greatest athlete in America.
No, I will not slow my roll.
You want to compare her to LeBron James, right? You want to compare her to Tom Brady. You want to compare her to J.J. Watt and Clayton Kershaw and Peyton Manning. That’s cool, that’s cool. I’ll make those comparisons for you.
Tom Brady sure did carry the Patriots to another Super Bowl victory last year, but his QB index was below Aaron Rodgers’, and none of that even matters because he was cheating all season long. J.J. Watt racked up over 20 sacks and even caught some touchdown passes last season, but the Texans didn’t make the playoffs. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, but where’s the hardware? Kershaw is the reigning MLB National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner; his stats are great. But he cracked hard in the NLDS last year, is allowing runs to get on the board this season, and didn’t even make the All-Star team this year.
LeBron is a wizard. Yes, he is the King. But he’s 1-3 in his last four NBA Finals. He has accomplished as much as Serena in his long career, for sure, but he’s done it with the help of a team, and his age is showing.
Fine, I’ll do individual sports, too. I’ll talk to you about Michael Phelps. The dude has 22 Olympic medals. TWENTY-TWO! He’s the most decorated Olympian ever. Phelps competed in the 2008 Olympics and the 2012 Olympics, and then he announced his retirement. He has since said he’ll swim again at the international level, but who knows how that will go? He’s technically an active athlete, but we haven’t seen him on an international stage since 2012.
Serena won her first Grand Slam in 1999 and her most recent Grand Slam this morning. That’s 16 years of dominance (and the longest gap between women’s Grand Slam titles in history). Two years ago, she became the oldest person to hold the No. 1 spot, and she’s won four more Grand Slams since then. She has won eight major championships in her 30s.
LeBron can’t say that. Phelps can’t say that.
Serena only needs one more Grand Slam title to tie Steffi Graf for the most championship wins in the Open Era. If she wins the U.S. Open later this summer, she’ll be the second player in history to win all four Slams in a single season. (Graff did it in ’88.) She has four Olympic gold medals. She has won more prize money than any woman in sports history.
And here’s the other thing: Serena has dominated the world of tennis for two generations against a backdrop of racist, sexist rhetoric and commentary from sports fans, sports media, and the general pop culture world at large. Her body is sexualized and scrutinized more than any other athlete in the modern sports world (as is almost always the case with black women). Her powerful presence is interpreted through a dehumanizing racist lens. Serena is chastised, mocked, and derided for things we celebrate and honor about John McEnroe (on-court intensity), Andre Agassi (off-court branding), Boris Becker (aggression), Roger Federer (arrogance), and on and on.
She has done it longer and better than any active athlete in America. She has done it all by herself. She has done it right in the middle of a perfect storm of misogyny and racism. And she is showing no signs of slowing down.
Serena Williams won a Wimbledon title again this morning. Serena Williams is the greatest athlete in America.
Nothing to add. Serena IS the greatest athlete in America.
Argh! Why am I so bad at this?!
wow i haven’t cared about a sports things this much since friday night lights was on
*** thinG uggggg
I have almost no interest in sports, yet this article moved me. Like whoa.
This was beautiful to read, Heather. Serena is such an impeccable woman!
I was wondering what Autostraddle readers think about J. K. Rowling’s defence of Serena?
JK Rowling is a goddess.
Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard about the importance of failure is one of the cornerstones of my ability to enjoy existing on this planet.
Agree wholeheartedly. This BBC article sums up a lot of my thoughts too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/tennis/33484728
That was a really good read! Thanks!
There was one point I believe the author got wrong, though; “This is a woman so lacking confidence that she refuses to lift weights because she is worried about making her arms look too big (she uses resistance bands instead.” That sounds more like succumbing to the pressure of gender norms governing physical appearance. It was still a good article, though! :)
Yes, the BBC article was great too! You should check this one out, which reflects a lot of the same sentiments in these articles. http://www.vox.com/2015/3/11/8189679/serena-williams-indian-wells-racism
The numbers, the titles, dominating for over a decade…
Serena Williams: greatest tennis player of all time?
Add the factor that she also plays doubles
I wish we had Edit function
Greatest athlete on earth.
Thank you Heather.
I know nothing about sports, but in the spirit of uninhibited commenting, I will say I enjoyed reading this article even if I didn’t quite understand the sports talk. I love that you are celebrating female athletes, especially ones that have had to contend with so much bullshit from the general public. I remember once – this is stream of consciousness – our (ie Croatian) tennis player Goran Ivanišević made disparaging comments about the Williams sisters along the lines of being fearful of them (implying that he was feeling threatened by their physical strength and appearance and consequent lack of the socially more acceptable feminine vulnerability).
Actually, I guess I did have something to contribute! Huh, go figure. This does happen when you allow yourself to just write, though.
Keep writing, friend
One of my favorite blog posts from Meg at Buttered Toast, argues that the answer, no matter the question/problem, is always on page 2. (And for me, that’s often where I even figure out what the question/problem is!) So just start writing! :)
Yes! I agree 1000% with everything you said here. She is the greatest!
I wish I had something more eloquent to say, but I just get so giddy when I think about Serena Williams’ success! EEEEK!!!!!!!!!!!
This. I just had a huge fight with my dad actually because he made some awful comments about her and I was so so so disappointed.
Congratulations to Serena for being one of the greatest athletes in the world!
props to you for speaking your mind; hope you two sort it out.
yes! awesome to see tennis coverage on autostraddle. Serena is so dominant, so mentally strong. can’t wait to see her smash the records that are still there.
(also Steffi Graf’s calendar Grand Slam was in ’88, not ’98)
And she speaks multiple languages! That puts her on a whole other level!
Loved reading in-depth and feminist cross-sport analysis here on Autostraddle (even though I don’t follow tennis). Yes let’s queer up all the sportsball! RAER!!!11! <3 Well done Heather.
and she still earns less than sharapova and every time they face each other the match is called a rivalry, serena has beaten sharapova the last seventeen times
Seriously! I thought Serena’s only real rivalry is her sister Venus but she’s mostly won those matches too. I love the Williams sisters. Is their dad still their coach, I wonder.
If there is any player who is truly Serena’s rival, it’s Azarenka. Definitely not Sharapova.
i truly feel that the only player who was able to match her was justine henin,but right now? the only player who can beat serena is serena, she gets so lost in her head and forgets her footwork when she’s beating herself up mentally. but when she is on, nobody can stop her and that hasn’t changed since she started playing professionally.
I was just reading about this! So infuriating.
Yes to all of this.
No to get off topic; but when it comes to the NBA how does one define a great athlete really? Cause if we are talking about championships, Robert Horry(who’s now retired) has 7 of them(some them were actually thanks to him which gave him the nick name big shot Rob). It’s two more than Kobe and one more than Jordan, and we all know he’s not at that level. We could go by points, but again not accurate. Nor is MVP as some of the greatest players only have one while others who aren’t as good have two or three. I guess my point is you can’t really compare NBA player to a solo player.
That all said congrats to her. It’s great to see more greatness that aren’t dudes.
I believe the difference is that tennis is a individual sport (unless your playing doubles)in comparison to basketball which requires a team. Robert Horry was a good basketball player, not great. Even though he does have seven championship and was instrument in helping his team get there. By no measure is he a better basketball player than Kobe or Jordan. If you look at the trajectory of his career he has been blessed with being on great teams that needed that extra push.
That’s my point, we can’t compare and nba player’s championship alone to a solo player from another sport. And Robert is a perfect example, as winning championships in the NBA isn’t an accurate stat of the quality of a player. We could go on a combo on MVP, championships, and points, but then that’s even harder to compare to a sport like Tennis.
*As a note, I am life long Laker fan and while I respect LeBron, I am not a fan. Not to mention Serena has roots in L.A.(Compton).
The best part of watching Serena play is that she keeps getting better. Top players have come and gone over the past 20 years and Serena (and Venus!) have outlasted them,all. Venus has what, 7 grand slams? So the Williams sisters hold 28 out of 42 possible titles among active players. It is absolutely absurd that they don’t receive the respect and recognition of the world at large. I, for one, look forward to watching them continue to play and and continue to inspire young American tennis players.
Serena Williams is amazing, I love what she stands for as an athlete and black woman.
Its interesting every time she wins something it appears like a bunch of racist come out the woodwork to discredit her accomplishments.
Yay, Serena! I know so little about sports, yet this is still so exciting!
I stay awake at night sometimes because she’s so amazing and I just, ugh Yas queen!
I am not a sporting person and I didn’t realize the import of this win until you broke it down like this. Thanks.
I don’t watch sports normally, but this was on at work and the announcers kept talking about how she’s the greatest athlete on the planet because of her ratio of wins to losses and the way she wins everything and has beat all her competitors. My ears perked up. It was impressive even though I didn’t understand the scoring.
Later I read something about how gender policing keeps the competition from working out as hard so they can still look feminine…
Serena is the best. I remember a while ago she was basically playing part-time and still coming in and winning at grand slams. She’s that good. Just look at the world of tennis – I can’t imagine the crap she would have had to put up with when breaking into the tour, let alone the more visible crap and efforts to discredit her we’ve seen despite her being so dominant.
Also, I assume Margaret Court was left of the mention of Grand Slam winners because she is an anti-gay bigot?
Margaret court didn’t get all of her wins during the open era, so she isn’t always included in the mentions.
She won the Grand Slam in 1970 which I thought was post-open era. But she’s made some crap ultra coservative comments of late so, meh.
Steffi Graff’s 1988 Golden Slam has no precedent in history, she’s the only player (female or male) who won all this in the same year: Australian Open, Roland Garros, Winbledon, US Open and Olympic Gold Medal (Seoul ’88).
Martina Navratilova won 344 titles in her career (167 singles and 177 Doubles). Also a record, no other player has as many titles as Martina (female or male) in the Open Era.
And it’s also necessary to consider the rivals that these players had in their time. That makes a big difference.
She is so rad!!!
Serena Williams is so awesome (and this article was so well done) that I, a person who has never cared about sports even a little bit, am now fully invested in what she is doing at all times.
I’ve always loved Serena Williams for how confident and passionate she is. In the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine there is a section about her and some of the racism she’s had to deal with on the court, it is really powerful and well written. The book overall is so fantastic just like Serena Williams
She is simply amazing.
As a Clevelander, I’ll ignore the bit about LeBron’s age showing because I’m a Clevelander and he is our only hope.
Wow, this was an amazing article and sounds even more bad ass when read aloud, as I did to my 11 year old brother.
Yes. Yes. Yes. ALL. OF. THE. YES.
I used to name all my Barbie horses Serena, after Serena Williams. Thinking I might need to start this multiple Serena naming extravaganza with my future pets. Hmm.
It’s just a shame for her that she happens to be playing a sport that her home country doesn’t give half a shit about.
YES X100, Serena is magnificent. It makes me laugh when people say that the Williams sisters dominate the women’s game too much because it makes the fact that they are outclassing everyone else currently playing into a bad thing.
I didn’t get to see Wimbledon at all, but she made it look like almost all her matches were played against amateurs at Roland Garros. Amazing.
I Said in AAA comments that Serena is so amazing they’ll probably make her play left-handed & she’d still win. 10yo me sat up many late nights down here in Australia in 88 (& many years after) & watched Steffi’s wins. I honestly never thought anyone would ever reach that standard again.
16yo old me would be horrified to hear me say it but I think Serena’s gone past her. Extraordinary efforts & a number of wins when carrying an illness or injury. Her effort at this year’s Aus Open was momentous – the equal of Steffi’s ’99 French Open.
It would be an honour to be shirt fronted by her.
Serena Williams is the epitome of Black Girl Magic and I am so here for her forever and always. (also, her butt is killer. how many squats do you think she does every day?)
Also, this: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jul/12/serena-williams-transcends-sport-outsider
YESSS GO SERENA!
Serena is literally the best.
And this is so awesome to read! Sports stats on AS!!
There is no doubt Serena is a phenomenal athlete and she has faced lots of obstacles to get where she is. The racism against her is disgusting. That being said, she is just not a very nice person so I can’t root for her. Does nobody else remember her defended a group of guys who raped a young girl, saying a year in prison was too harsh, questioning her virginity as if that made a difference etc. Some of her on court actions have been bad too( and yes, I do judge the men as harshly for that stuff).
Heather, I love you. Please never ever slow your roll.
I did not think I would be very interested when I started reading this article, but it was so engaging that I now care about tennis!
I can’t be the only one chanting “Serena, Serena, Serena.” That couple who needs a name for their kid should name her Serena…just saying!
I object to the Tom Brady cheating thing, which I believe is mostly a failure to apply the ideal gas law.
… Am I the only Pats fan on Autostraddle?
Haha THANK YOU. My gut rolled over with the (inaccurate) Tom Brady jab.
Loved this piece. It might inspire me to actually start watching tennis.
Between Serena’s win and the Women’s World Cup, I swear the world is trying to get me to care about sportsball. (Cause I was always on board with the equal representation/antipoppressive part.)
I LOVE this commentary. SERENA WILLIAMS IS MADE OF EXCELLENCE.
I love this so much. Heather telling it like it is.
Never slow your roll, Heather. Yes to all of this.
Women are taking over the world — this week in sports — and I effing LOVE it.
SERENA IS INCREDIBLE and so is this article. It’s just what I needed in response to all of these dudebros in my life mansplaining to me that male athletes are “still objectively better athletes” than Serena and/or that their accomplishments are “more impressive.”