When you’re sitting at the top of the grand slam titles Open Era leader board with 22, when you’ve just captured a 14th doubles major trophy with your sister, when you already have four Olympic golds and are ranked world No1 for a 301st week, is it even possible to think ahead and ask for more?
“No I can’t,” said Serena Williams after her Wimbledon victory on Saturday.
“Obviously the Olympics is next and the US Open but that’s as far as I’m thinking. When I go out there I just enjoy it. Obviously I’m looking forward to going back to Australia, it’s one of my favourite places to go… Yeah just enjoy the moment.”
After tying Steffi Graf’s Open Era record, the assumption would be that Serena is now eyeing Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors, but the American quickly halts that track of thought.
“I’m definitely not looking to even talk – one thing I do now is don’t talk about it, so I’m not even talking about 24. Got to just be here,” she said.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, sounds far more ambitious.
“I don’t like 22, I don’t like 24, because Serena doesn’t equal, she beats records. So we’ll talk later. But we’re far from 25. There’s a lot of time, no rush,” said the Frenchman.
The past 12 months for Serena have been, in her own words, “tough”.
Going for the Grand Slam last year in New York, falling short in the semi-finals against Roberta Vinci, then losing two major finals this year in Melbourne and Paris… these were a series of events that could have broken her. She chose an alternative route instead.
“I’ve always known that I was a big fighter and I never gave up but I really think that I put it on display the last 12 months and just really not let anything stop me or not let anything get me down and not letting a loss prevent me from continuing on and I think it just shows a lot of tenacity,” she said.
Between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, somewhere in the past five weeks, Serena woke up one day and just felt “different”.
“It’s weird, like usually you don’t know but I felt it, I felt a relief, and maybe it was like ‘I’m not going to worry about anyone or anything, I’m just going to worry about tennis’. I’m not going to worry about what people say and what people don’t say, I’m just going to worry about tennis,” she explained.
“I just felt good.”
It led to her winning a seventh Wimbledon crown on Saturday, rising in the face of many doubters.
Two months shy of her 35th birthday, Serena continues to evolve. She has learned to be more gracious in defeat and has been speaking out more about the issues that matter to her.
She was visibly supportive of Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza following her losses to them in Melbourne and Paris – something that had not been necessarily typical of Serena in the past.
“It’s just more or less who I’ve become and who I am,” she explains. “Definitely being genuinely happy at that moment for the people that I lost to. For me the success of another female in particular should be the inspiration to the next.”
Following her victory on Saturday, she was asked about the racial tensions in America and she took the opportunity to talk about social justice.
“I don’t think that the answer is to continue to shoot our young black men in the United States. It’s just unfortunate. Or just black people in general,” said Serena.
“Also obviously violence is not the answer of solving it. The shooting in Dallas was very sad. No one deserves to lose their life, doesn’t matter what color they are, where they’re from. We’re all human. We have to learn that we have to love one another. It’s going to take a lot of education and a lot of work, I think, to get to that point.
“But I think, in general, the entire situation is extremely sad, especially for someone like me. It’s something that is very painful to see happening.”
Serena’s half-sister Yetunde was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2003.
The chills-inducing montage of Serena’s Wimbledon journey that appeared on the BBC on Saturday and showed her reciting Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’ has gone viral online.
“You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I’ll rise,” is one of the most “powerful” lines in the poem said Serena.
“And then one of my favourite parts is ‘I’m the hope and dream of a slave’,” Serena was quoted as saying by WTA Insider.
“So those really really resonate with me because that’s what my ancestors were. I’m the product of that. If you break down those words, it was a dream probably for my ancestors to be here and to see what they, because of their perseverance, were able to let me have this opportunity. It’s so touching and it’s so amazing that because of that, I do have that opportunity.”
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