Monday, June 29, 2015

Appreciating Greatness While It's Still Around

Wimbledon begins its fortnight on the grass courts outside London today.  And that makes it a good time to turn some attention toward the greatest American female athlete of our time: Serena Williams.  Barring a major upset in the next two weeks, Serena is expected to win her sixth Ladies title at Wimbledon.  It would also give her the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam--having already won the Australian Open and the French Open this year.  And yet, you don't hear much buzz around Serena.

Consider that she has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles in her career--the third most of all time.  Add to that another 13 titles in doubles and two in mixed doubles and she has captured 35 Grand Slam championships--seventh all time for men and women.  In 2002 and 2003 she captured the "Serena Slam" winning four consecutive majors--just not in the same calendar year.  She has also won four Gold Medals in the Olympics.  Her career winnings of more than $70-million are the most of any female athlete in history.  And at 33-years old, she is the oldest number one ranked player in women's tennis history.

But still, you don't see as many Sarena Williams commercials on TV and in print as you do certain other, far-less accomplished female athletes.  She's not even the most glamorized player in her own sport--with Maria Sharapova getting the watch and shoe and jewelry ads.  Serena is left to do Citibank smartphone app commercials where she doesn't even have a line of dialogue.  Of course, Sharapova has actually won some Grand Slam tournaments.  Why Danica Patrick is in half the commercials during a NASCAR race still confuses me--seeing as how she has never won a race on that circuit and her only major racing victory came in a rain-shortened Indycar race in Japan.  But we love us some Danica.  Serena--not so much.

Maybe it's because Serena is a bit of a drama queen.  She is constantly "fighting through injury" or illness or fatigue.  But how is that different from the almost weekly drama that Brett Favre created for himself the second half of his career?  Serena painted an ugly portrait of herself threatening to choke a line judge who called her for a foot fault at the US Open a few years back.  But that's not far from what John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase were yelling at officials back in the day. 

We should also celebrate the fact that Serena Williams is the only American that is even competitive in international tennis now.  Can you name the last American male to win a Grand Slam tournament?  (It was Andy Roddick, who won the US Open in 2003.)  And even Serena's sister, Venus (who was supposed to be the better tennis player of the two) can't get out of the first round of most tournaments nowadays.

So hopefully, you will be take the chance to enjoy some Breakfast at Wimbledon the next couple of weeks, if for no other reason than to enjoy the greatest American female athlete in history while she is still competing.

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