I say the greatest athlete in a generation, I mean the greatest in any sport.
Sorry, LeBron. Sorry, Tiger. Sorry, Derek. For fifteen years, over two
generations of tennis, Williams has been a spectacular and constant yet oddly
uncherished national treasure. She is wealthy and famous, but it seems that she
should be more famous, the most famous. Anyone who likes sports should love
Williams’s dazzling combination of talent, persistence, style,
unpredictability, poise, and outsized, heart-on-her-sleeve flaws. 

not everyone loves her. Part of this is owing to the duelling -isms of American
prejudice, sexism, and racism…. 

it’s not enough to say that Williams would be more uniformly adored if she were
a white woman, or a man. Instead, the failure to fully appreciate her
importance is perhaps evidence of our inability to appreciate the stubbornly
unfamiliar narrative arc of her career. Williams is underloved because, at
times, she has been unlovable and, in the end, mostly unrepentant about it—something
that might be admired as iconoclastic in a male athlete, but rarely endears
women to a wide audience…. 

after a disappointing showing in the three previous Grand Slam tournaments,
Williams said that she adopted a new way of thinking about the game, to put
less pressure on herself by appreciating what she had already accomplished.
‘That’s the beauty of my career,’ she said before the Open. ‘I don’t need to do
anything at all. Everything I do from this day forward is a bonus. Actually, from
yesterday. It doesn’t matter. Everything for me is just extra.’ This is surely
wisdom, but it is also a form of sports sacrilege. I don’t have anything to
prove; I have been great—so great, in fact, that at this point winning doesn’t
even matter.” 

Excerpted from an
article by Ian Crouch for New Yorker Magazine

Photograph by
Darron Cummings/AP

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