To say Serena Williams hates to be second best would be an understatement.
After her loss to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon women’s final, Williams was asked by reporters how she would retell the story of her Wimbledon return to her young daughter Olympia.
“Well, I think it was a happy story. I’ll probably change the ending.”
Only Serena could see a runner-up finish in her fourth tournament back as a bit of a disappointment. Television cameras caught Williams leaving her runner-up trophy behind on her chair, a facetious reminder that Williams is not sacrificing time with her new family for a few fun tournaments. Williams wants to leave the game as the greatest of all time.
2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Serena Williams playing her first major. Over her career she has missed only three majors in a row twice. By chance her results have mirrored each other in both of her returns. In 2010, Williams was coming off one of her most dominant tournaments at Wimbledon. She defeated Vera Zvonareva for her 13th major title, which pushed her past American great Billie Jean King.
She was world number one and had won her second major of the year until she infamously cut her foot on glass at a Belgian nightclub. That cut lead to Williams’ first battle with blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She would not return until 2011, when she lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon and the final of the United States Open. In the 2011 U.S. Open final, Williams did not give her best effort. The occasion and desire to win became a hindrance when Serena got into a memorable altercation with an umpire. No such occasion happened in her 2018 Wimbledon final, but Serena was not able to summon her best effort against Angelique Kerber.
From these setbacks, Williams has always bounced back and shown her resilience. After the Kerber match she stated she was already analyzing her runner-up performance to see what she can improve upon for the summer hardcourt events.
“I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on,” she said. “What I need to do, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, how I can do better – that whole madness that goes on in my mind. Then I’m saying, ‘Okay, I do improve with losses.’ We’ll see how it goes. That’s kind of where my mind is at right now.’’
Recalibrating after her 2011 U.S. Open loss led Williams to forge one of the greatest seasons of her career. It culminated in winning her first Olympic gold medal on Centre Court of Wimbledon alongside Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles. Serena’s future potential is enormous on a WTA Tour in which multiple women share the wealth and have recently become first-time champions in her absence. It will not be easy for Serena to dominate the tour as she has in the past, yet she still remains a favorite at any tournament she decides to enter.
Steffi Graf once said, “You cannot measure success if you have never failed.” Williams, as successful a player as she is, has experienced humbling failures throughout her career. Still, she rises and surprises us all with new heights only Serena Williams could perceive. Williams will continue to rewrite her story for Olympia… until she can tell her daughter about the ending when mom returned to rewrite history once again.
Image – Jimmie 48