Serena Williams. Many words come to mind with the mention of her name: Icon, athlete, feminist … but, perhaps, the most significant one is resilience. Williams made it to her third Grand Slam final since her return from maternity leave, even after only playing very few matches in 2019. However, Williams lost 6-2, 6-2 to an emphatic Simona Halep, who, in Serena’s words, “played out of her mind.” In the tournament, Williams looked in top form and showed the world the best of her is here to stay for a while. Here’s what the rest of the world should take away from her run to the finals:
Age truly is just a number
Commentators take every chance they get to point out the top players’ age — specifically, Venus, who just turned 39, and Roger Federer, the world No. 3 who is returning to top form himself and will turn 38 in August. Serena’s 38th comes just a month after Federer’s.
The commentators’ constant mention of the players’ age is not only irritating — the meaning behind it isn’t always made clear. They’re all still playing extremely well, so why mention it?
Nonetheless, Serena defied all of the age comments. Her serve, considered the best ever for a female tennis player, her groundstrokes and her net play all have never looked more sharp. Just like a fine wine, Serena keeps getting better with age.
Perseverance is key
Serena wrote an article for CNN about the immense difficulties that came with the birth of her child, Olympia, on September 1, 2017, including having a hematoma and spending the first six weeks of Olympia’s life in bed. In March 2018, Serena returned to tennis with a ranking of 491—490 spots down from where she left it. She endured early-round losses at her first two WTA Premier events upon her return, but she was looking sharp at the French Open before having to withdraw from her third round matchup with rival Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral injury.
Then, the inevitable happened. It was 2018 Wimbledon, and, ranked 181 in the world, she made a run to the finals, where she lost to Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-3. At the last major of the year, the U.S. Open, she made another run to the finals. In a match everyone remembers, Serena fell at the hands of Naomi Osaka, in 6-2, 6-4 loss.
She started her 2019 season with a loss in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, injuries and a loss in the third round of the French Open. Wimbledon, as of late, seems to give Serena the fewest problems, and she solidified that notion during this fortnight through her perseverance and ability to overcome adversity countless times.
Ignore the hate
At the 2018 U.S. Open, Serena did what she thought was right: She spoke up when she thought the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, did her wrong by penalizing her for breaking her racket and “verbally abusing” him (she called him a “thief” among other things for taking away a point and eventually a game). In Serena’s defense, male players do this quite often without repercussions. Osaka was overcome with emotion in the trophy ceremony — but not in a good way. The crowd was booing during the altercations and even during the trophy presentation, and Osaka apologized for the way the match ended. Serena stepped in to tell the crowds to stop booing and congratulate Osaka for her fantastic win.
During Wimbledon this year, Serena revealed in an essay she went to therapy and even sent Osaka an apology letter following the events of that controversial final. Even as one of the biggest stars in the world, she got help when she felt she needed it. She moved on, and everyone else should as well. However, every move Serena makes will inevitably be met with controversy because that’s what being one of the greatest athletes ever means — and she’ll continue to ignore and move past it.
Let nothing stop your pursuit of your dreams
You’ve seen the Nike commercials: The Williams sisters came from humble beginnings and gradually became the best tennis players of their generation. Serena has outmatched her sister 24-7 in major titles, but they both rose from numerous hardships, including experiences of racism, on their way to stardom. Both made their names known, both pushed each other, both have let nothing stand in their way. Serena’s 2019 Wimbledon finals loss will sting, but we all know — Serena especially — that more finals appearances are to come for her.