Who Gon Stop Her? Serena Williams' Reign Continues

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By Staci Gorden

I witnessed her do it again. Serena Williams defeated her opponent 6-0 in the third set, winning the Sony Open Tennis Tournament last weekend. It was another come-from-behind victory, delighting fans and commentators alike. No one should be surprised though. If anything, viewers have now become accustomed to seeing this kind of performance from Serena. But what makes me so proud, is how she has been able to dominate this majority-white sport for over a decade.

I first saw Serena in person when I was about 13 years old. At the age of eleven, she was an imposing figure even back then --- she and Venus. The two, accompanied by their father, showed up at the Rock Creek Tennis Center in Washington, DC during the Reebok Tennis Academy tryouts where I was a hopeful young player. Venus and Serena’s public appearance that day was a tennis showcase of sorts. The two demonstrated a variety of spectacular shots and their father, Richard Williams, spoke to our group about the importance of working hard, believing in yourself and going after dreams. As a young tennis player, I was in awe.

Fast forward 20 years, I’m still in awe. I’ve watched her career unfold since she turned pro in 1995 and she has never ceased to amaze me. She has an incredible ability to win Grand Slam tournaments, even when she’s injured or not playing her best. She’s publicly admitted to not liking practice, and at times, she’s played a very limited tournament schedule. Yet, she has the passion, drive and determination of a champion of the highest order. She’s battled back from injuries time and again. Even when sidelined by a serious medical condition, she found her way back to the number 1 ranking.

Amidst Serena’s stunning victories, there have been some ugly defeats. And with it, Serena’s anger has sometimes gotten the best of her over the years. I can’t forget the 2009 US Open Final against Kim Clijsters, when Serena got so upset over a line call that she threatened to shove the ball down the line judge’s throat. Most recently, I witnessed her have a meltdown at the 2013 Australian Open while playing against fellow American Sloane Stephens, another young black woman attempting to make her mark in the sport. Frustrated with her performance after losing a point, Serena smashed her racket, completely destroying it. Cognizant of the popular images of “the angry black woman” most often seen in the media, I sometimes wish for a calmer, more demure Serena. I’ve even resorted to verbalizing my frustration aloud, asking rhetorically “Um, why all the drama Serena?”

But in the grand scheme of things, her winning record speaks for itself. In tennis, a sport that’s punctuated with the high-pitched grunts of European players, it is such a wonderful sight to see a woman of African descent take home the trophy and winner’s purse. Remarkably, she is the only female tennis player to have won over $40 million in prize money.

After her years of domination on the court are well behind her, sports writers will look back and marvel at the athleticism and prowess of this champion. But that seems so far in the distant future. Right now, she’s the number one tennis player in the world. And after so many amazing accomplishments – 48 singles titles, 22 doubles titles, and 4 Olympic gold medals -- she clearly has the hunger for more. Who gon’ stop her?

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