Champions are formed over an athlete’s lifetime, legacies in an instant. Particularly those moments that that seemed most unlikely or unplanned. Serena Williams began the Australian Open two weeks ago two years away from her last Grand Slam title and ranked 81st in the world. She was scattered, broken by injuury and tragedy, and, in her own words, been down, down down. “No one knows what I’ve been through,” she said many times.
Tonight she’ll be leaving Australia the unlikeliest of champions. She not only won her 8th Grand Slam but she did so in such commanding fashion – 6-1, 6-2 over the No. 1-ranked women in the world, the wondrous Maria Sharapova – that observers were both awed and enlivened. The commentators gushed at how much “fun” it was to she her play so well, how it foretold great things for Williams and for tennis in ’07.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler called it the “beat down Down Under.”
It was indeed a marvel to watch, a reminder of times long thought gone and now hoped for again.
I’d pretty much prepared for Serena to be remembered as a great champion, a proud and powerful competitor who was at once formidable and intimidating. That could not be taken from her. But when he conversation turned to those deemed among the best ever, well, her name was not uttered. Now that she has been down, down, she has a true chance to change that. She has a chance to erase the perception that she and her sister had merely used tennis as a means to another red carpet or clothing line. “I don;t care about her purse,” Mary Carillo gushed after the match. She just wanted to see Serena Williams play great tennis.
Carillio isn’t alone. Before the match ended I received an IM from a friend, a tennis friend, a tennis champion in her own right. It said, simply, “She’s back.”