It’s hard to believe Serena Williams has been playing tennis professionally for nearly 24 years, but the 37-year-old superstar has been at it longer than many of her competitors have been alive.
In the first round of Wimbledon 2019, Serena’s older sister, Venus, took the court and lost against 15-year-old Coco Gauff. This serves as a stark reminder that a new generation of budding athletes are coming, and the days of the old guard may be numbered. So, is it time to prepare for Serena’s downturn?
The rise of Serena
Much has been made of Serena’s upbringing. She’s trained in professional tennis with her family since she was just a child. The Michigan native even tried to make it into pro tennis before she was old enough to do so. In fact, Serena has been a superstar since before she could even vote.
Things came full circle in 2017 when she defeated Venus in the final of the Australian Open. To date, this is Serena’s last Grand Slam title, as she announced her pregnancy soon after and missed some time. Since returning, however, she’s struggled to regain her championship form.
Loss and injury
Serena has had three straight defeats in major tournaments since returning. But the way she lost could be viewed more as a product of poor luck, injury, and circumstances beyond her control. A lot was made about her loss to up-and-coming superstar Naomi Osaka, who beat Serena in the 2018 U.S. Open finals following some controversial penalties and an ensuing outburst from Serena.
Months later, in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Australian Open, Serena was up 5-1 on Karolina Pliskova and looked to be a shoo-in for the semifinals. An ankle injury hobbled her, and she blew the lead. Since then, Serena has struggled to look healthy. While she shows glimpses of brilliance, she grapples with mobility on the court.
Despite her struggles and bad luck, this does not necessarily mean Serena has nothing left to give. She is notoriously hard-working in the gym and takes great care of her body. While the injuries need time to recover, there is no reason to believe Serena will let them dictate the rest of her career.
While many focus on the age of tennis stars, pros who stay in shape don’t let it dictate where their careers head. Tennis icon Martina Navratilova’s career lasted over 30 years, even winning championships well into her forties. Even when Father Time adds resistance, tennis tends to reward those who put up with the grind.
Does this affect her legacy?
To many, Serena is the greatest women’s tennis player in history. With 23 majors, she could retire today with this legacy. Whether she adds another grand slam title or retires, everything that happens to Serena from here on out is bonus material.