Serena Williams Is So Much Better Than You Think

Every time Serena Williams plays tennis the red, white, and blue is beside her name, yet she’s overlooked and under-celebrated.

The United States women’s soccer team just put an American flag cloak over the US’s disdain for soccer and made millions cheer their brilliance. The story of the tournament predictably became #Merica, but it sh/could’ve been female athletes providing quality entertainment through athletic achievement. The story sh/could’ve also been the many brilliant personal stories of the athletes who are now household names. Many of whom are interesting, courageous, and oh yeah, gay. Still, through ticker tape parades on opposing coasts the overwhelming story was #Merica. This wouldn’t necessarily be all that wrong…if it were consistent.

Every time Serena Williams plays tennis the red, white, and blue is beside her name, yet she’s overlooked and under-celebrated. It’s becoming more and more obvious that something is wrong with you if you can’t enjoy her and her story.

There is no more rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, work-your-way-to-the-top story than that of the Williams sisters. #Merica loves to believe that our chief export is our brand of determination, will, gut, grit, strength, and stubbornness. Mind you, nothing is more any of that than taking your two African-American daughters to tennis courts in Compton, California in the 80s with the expectation that they’ll not only be something, they’ll be something we’ve never seen before.

1-MMoCN_1jwCKtvelSJPwW3QSerena Williams winning her 21st grand slam title is something nearly impossible to put into perspective. In this era of peak athleticism and talent scouting, nobody should have been able to evolve with the sport to approach nearly two decades of dominance — let alone someone well into their 30s. The sport just wasn’t built for that.

Tennis is cruel, and frequently downright evil. It demands that athleticism, technique, strategy, and skill are balanced proportionately prior to every strike of the ball. Mis-calibrating in either department can, and usually does, result in failure. Impressive athleticism can become ultimately inconsequential — rely too heavily on superior athleticism and more skilled players will trick you into running baseline suicides for their amusement. On the other hand, skew too heavily on technique and your perfectly executed poorly read shots will lead to embarrassing passing shots.

The goal of tennis isn’t perfection, it’s to generate more winners than errors. Basically the sport of tennis tells you that you will fail; the aim is to make your opponent fail more, or at the very least, at more inconvenient moments.

That’s why it’s so much fun to watch Serena Williams wrangle this three-headed beast into submission, wrap a leash around it, and crip walk down the street beside it.

All athletes included, male or female, Serena Williams is one of the most fearless competitors we have ever seen. When she decides she’s not losing, she doesn’t lose. Sounds simple and cliche — it’s neither. Nothing about watching Serena’s fight looks simple and nothing about it is commonplace.

This article was originally written by ndré carlisle and appeared on Medium on June 5, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

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