SER­ENA GOES FOR GREEN

CityPress - - Front Page - CAI­PHUS KGOSANA cai­phus.kgosana@city­press.co.za

When she hoisted the 2015 French Open tro­phy ear­lier this month – the 20th grand slam in an al­ready phe­nom­e­nal ca­reer – Ser­ena Wil­liams must have known that not ev­ery­one would be thrilled.

Even though Wil­liams is crush­ing records on an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney to­wards the hon­our of great­est fe­male ten­nis player of all time, the ele­phant in the room – her skin colour – stands stub­bornly around.

Un­like in 1991 at In­dian Wells in Cal­i­for­nia, when she and sis­ter Venus were taunted and racially abused in the most vile fash­ion – one man threat­ened: “I wish it was 1975. We’d skin you alive” – nowa­days the racial prej­u­dice di­rected at her is more nu­anced and sub­tle.

Fel­low play­ers have joked about her manly physique, while cer­tain com­men­ta­tors – in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous ten­nis greats – im­ply that her ath­leti­cism and power give her an un­fair ad­van­tage. Ser­ena is a tall, well-built, ag­ile and ag­gres­sive ath­lete who has a body she works hard to main­tain.

In a world where a typ­i­cal ten­nis cham­pion is ex­pected to be blonde, blue-eyed and pe­tite, Ser­ena has spent the past 20 years shat­ter­ing all myths and stereo­types as­so­ci­ated with the sport. In the process, she has col­lected ti­tles at an as­ton­ish­ing pace.

Her fa­ther, Richard Wil­liams, al­ways knew that his girls were go­ing to be stars on the ten­nis court. When he moved his fam­ily from the rough streets of Comp­ton in Cal­i­for­nia to Palm Beach in Florida, he had one thing in mind: to turn them into world ten­nis cham­pi­ons.

Of Richard’s five kids, the two girls – Venus and Ser­ena – took to the sport im­me­di­ately. In fact, it was Venus who first up­set the ten­nis ap­ple­cart in 2000 when she beat Lind­say Davenport in straight sets to win the most cov­eted prize in the sport: Wim­ble­don. She and Ser­ena took the dou­bles ti­tle that same year.

While the world mar­velled at Venus, Richard pointed them to­wards her younger sis­ter, who was by then on an up­ward tra­jec­tory of her own. Ser­ena had al­ready won the US Open the year be­fore.

The young ten­nis prodigy reached her peak in mid2002 and early 2003 – an era known in ten­nis as the Ser­ena Slam – when she made it four out of four grand slams. She has since added 15 ma­jor ti­tles and count­less oth­ers, in­clud­ing four Olympic gold medals.

World Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion fig­ures show that Ser­ena is the:

Third player in ten­nis history to win 20 ma­jors (Mar­garet Court won 24 and St­effi Graf won 22);

First woman to win the Aus­tralian Open and French Open dou­ble since Jen­nifer Capriati in 2001;

Sec­ond player in the open era to have won each of the grand slams three or more times (Graf is the only other player to have achieved this); and

First woman in the open era to have 50 match wins at grand slams.

But her record-break­ing and history-mak­ing ex­ploits are not al­ways matched by equal fi­nan­cial re­wards.

The At­lanta Black­star web­site noted that Maria Shara­pova still makes dou­ble what Ser­ena earns off the court – although Ser­ena has beaten Shara­pova 17 out of the 19 times they have met and has won four times more grand slams than the Rus­sian.

Forbes mag­a­zine showed that Shara­pova made $22 mil­lion (R268 mil­lion) off the court, com­pared with Ser­ena’s $11 mil­lion, last year.

Shara­pova is tall, thin and blonde – con­sid­ered more beau­ti­ful and more mar­ketable than Ser­ena.

“Je suis in­croy­able [I am in­cred­i­ble],” Ser­ena told the ad­mir­ing crowd af­ter lift­ing the French Open ti­tle.

All that in­cred­i­ble strength, beauty and power will soon be on full dis­play at the All Eng­land Club when Ser­ena sets her sights on a sixth Wim­ble­don ti­tle.

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