The United States is rife with improbable, up-by-the-bootstraps tales. We like to believe we have a corner on the market, though surely there are some inspirational success stories in India or Brazil or anywhere other than North Korea or Venezuela.
Very few would top Serena's, though. The journey taken by Serena (and to only a slightly lesser degree by her sister) is truly unprecedented. An African American girl trained on the public courts of Compton, California, by a conspicuous whack job of a father becomes the most enduringly dominant athlete of a predominantly Caucasian sport? Come on.
Yeah, yeah, superficially, one could compare Tiger Woods to Serena. Both began their domination in the late nineties; both continued through the first decade of this century. But at that point their paths diverge. Three long years into his decline, Woods's dominance seems short-lived compared with that of Serena, who thirteen years after the first of her fifteen Grand Slam singles and thirteen Grand Slam doubles titles-is still entirely, overwhelmingly ass-hipping nearly every competitor she meets.
There are blips, of course. Unexplained absences, family members murdered, unusual injuries, the most curious family box at all the slams. As all intensely famous and intensely insulated people are, Serena is weird. But unlike most of the rest of women's tennis, Serena is not crazy. Unlike the best players in her sport, Serena does not have a crippling mental block that prevents her from serving effectively. Unlike the best players in her sport, she has never suddenly lost the ability to play. No. Serena just attacks.
At age thirty-one, with two more singles Grand Slams and a couple Olympic golds won in 2012, Serena is still rising.
By David Granger
Esquire, December 2012