Happy Friday folks! Thankfully we’ve made it to another work week’s end. In today’s rendition of Firing Off Friday, I find myself wanting to celebrate the accomplishments of one of my favorite women. And no I don’t mean my mother or Queen Bey. I actually want to talk about tennis phenom Serena Williams.
Every 20-30 years, one athlete comes along that redefines his/her perspective sport and helps define a generation. He or she often defies what people deem physically possible, earns the respect and admiration from peers and friends, and carves a special unforgettable place in history. During the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali was that athlete. Ali is the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, has a record of 56-5, and has fought in the most memorable matches in boxing (i.e. The Thrilla in Manila with Joe Frazier). And boxing’s great was just as prominent outside of the ring. The stance he took against the Vietnam War is still considered by many to be one of the most “courageous” positions taken by an athlete on politics. And what is perhaps most amazing about this legend, is that he is as relevant now as he was during the height of his boxing career.
In the 1990s it was all about MJ. Michael Jeffrey Jordan is the greatest NBA player to dribble a basketball. For those that have lived on Mars or in a time vault from the 1940s and don’t know his legacy, I’ll break it down for you. “His Airness” is a six-time NBA champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, five-time NBA MVP, has been in fourteen NBA All-Star games, and is the All-Time NBA playoff leading scorer. And that’s just some of his accomplishments. Michael Jordan was a genuine competitor that when statistics and even circumstances deemed it impossible, he shifted into another gear that helped his team to be victorious. Plus, what he has done for athletes in terms of endorsement deals is unprecedented. The man hasn’t played basketball in roughly 15 years, and yet Air Jordans are still arguably the most popular athletic shoe on the market. Oh and I didn’t even mention he is the only athlete to successfully headline a film with Space Jam.
Now cue Serena Jameka Williams. She made her big splash in the tennis world in 1999, when the then beaded hair competitor became the first black woman to win the U.S. Open since Althea Gibson nearly 40 years prior. Since then, Serena has won 21 more Grand Slam singles titles, 12 Grand Slam doubles titles, 4 Olympic Gold medals, completed two “Serena Slams” (consecutive Grand Slam singles titles), and is currently two wins shy of achieving a Calendar Grand Slam. The last feat is something that hasn’t been done since 1988.
Let’s further put Serena’s accomplishments into perspective. As it stands now, she is one win shy of tying Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam singles titles with 22. What’s fascinating about that, is that as the world’s current #1 on the women’s side of tennis, she shows no signs of retiring and is playing perhaps the best tennis of her career at 33. At times it appears that she is several steps ahead of her competition. Which leads me to believe, that she has the potential to claim the Grand Slam singles title record for herself.
I’d be doing Serena a disservice if I didn’t mention what she has done for tennis. Well what her and her sister have done for tennis. Both Williams sisters have made people want to watch the sport. Individuals who usually wouldn’t have given the sport a second thought, are tuning into ESPN, CBS, and NBC just to watch these two go head to head with their opponents. Heck think back to Tuesday, the Serena and Venus quarterfinals match was trending on timelines across the various social media platforms. And even in the midst of ignorant lowlifes calling Serena manly or poking fun of her infamous backside, she has not once got out of character and maintained the integrity of the sport.
And what impresses me the most about Serena, is that she is the definition of clutch. I’ve followed her career for a long time, and have seen her bounce back in matches more than any player in tennis. She will literally be a few points away from losing the match, and then dig into some reservoir of athletic ability to fight back and come up with a win. I’ve honestly never seen such athleticism displayed in the face of losing, since MJ. I know people talk about Lebron James as this generation’s greatest athlete, but to be clear that honor has to go to Williams. Check her credentials!
On a side note, although her dating life doesn’t lend its hand to her champion legacy, she is definitely winning there too. Not only has she dated the fine Chicago rapper/actor Common. But she has also been linked to Canada native Drake. And I’ve said weeks ago how cute I think 2015 Drake is. Serena Williams you are a hero, legend, and this generation’s real MVP!