See how Serena Williams became one of the all-time greats just by being herself.
Serena Williams has been the face of tennis, the object of the deepest, most devoted idolatry ever witnessed in sports. The woman you know from her photo may be on the cover of Cosmo, but she is just another woman.
This is a phenomenon we have come to see all too often, and it can be the result of so many factors: Williams’ unique ability to transcend the game of tennis to become a cultural force (she is a worldwide phenomenon, after all, and her life has been chronicled so many times that she is almost a household name) and the cultural influence of the women on the court that she follows religiously (for example, sister Venus).
But, above all, it is a result of the fact that Williams has lived her life to the extreme: she puts herself out there without flinching, and when she does flinch, it’s for the same reasons that we saw earlier in this list: she is doing her best work on the court, and there is nothing else she wants to do. She will do it anyway, because it’s fun. You don’t have to know her to know that.
Serena Williams became the all-time greats only by doing it just that. She is a self-made legend: she made herself the best, and she never stopped doing it. And it just so happened that her greatest days coincided perfectly with the greatest era of women’s tennis.
The era began in 1972, when the French player, the late Maria Bueno, shocked the tennis world when she defeated the reigning WTA Singles champions, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
It would be almost a decade before another French player would match that feat: Margaret Court, who would go on to win five of her own major singles titles (including Wimbledon and the US Open), and who would be the first woman to receive the Arthur Ashe Award as the best tennis player of the year.
And if she had left tennis at one point, would it have made any difference? Well, she did, but not until she was already 40, and she had been competing almost continuously since 1974, on the tour that is almost exactly a century old. And then, of course, she left the tour in 2012, after losing in the final of the