LONDON – Why does Sister Serena remind me of the Statue of Liberty? Well, both of them are famous Americans, recognizeable heroines just about everywhere.
They stand out in their occupations, symbols of the fact that anything is possible in the USA. Lady Liberty is a one-woman welcoming committee in New York. Sister Serena travels the world as the best female tennis player in creation.
Of course they have different ideas about fashion, the Lady in a somber robe, while Serena is somewhat more daring in her raiment, on and off the job.
Did I say somewhat? Do you think Liberty would be comfortable in the fire-engine-red drawers that accompany Serena’s pristine white ensemble? Or the silver finger nails speckled with tiny sparklers and seeming like claws?
Probably not. Still the thought of their similarities came to me yesterday during a soft summer afternoon at Wimbledon, glorious for everyone in the forest green ball park but the hustling though helpless Russian, Vera Zvonareva.
Serena had just about completed her demolition derby, but one point remained. A lob rose above Serena, and she raised her racket to deal with it. It was just like Lady Liberty’s pose with her celebrated torch lifted to the sky.
Serena’s racket was as fiery as the torch, scorching the tennis ball with a bang. Nice touch, ending a major championship on an overhead smash. It was Sister’s 29th winner in a 6-3, 6-2 victory. It took 66 minutes, not as close as the score. She also launched 9 aces for a Wimbledon total of 89, a tournament record for women anywhere. Any guy would be proud to have her damaging hook, a sliced wide serve to the first court. It brought to mind the old Ella Fitzgerald recording of “Ace in the Hole.” If Serena was in a hole, she delivered one of her screaming aces.
The Williams Decade continues. Over the last 11 years at the Big W, the Sisters have won nine singles championships between them, five for Venus. Never been anything like it, this crushing of the opposition.
That brings me back to Serena and Liberty and what they’ve meant to the country, and the hopes of keeping those lights burning. Of course the Williams sisters have been an example of the American story. Springing from a troubled neighborhood of Los Angeles, they were raised to play tennis by parents who knew little of the sport but persevered because opportunity was there.
Serena says, “I think that our playing tennis and being well known helps call attention to our charity programs, helps us to do more.”
She has financed the construction of two elementary schools in needy areas of Kenya, and hopes to do whatever she can for kids. “In the USA, too,” she says.
“Our father taught me and Venus how to serve.” They have developed that stroke as the most powerful weapon in the game. Martina Navratilova calls Serena’s serve the greatest in the history of the women’s game. A huge statement. But the high technology rackets are more deadly today while such heavy servers in the past as Althea Gibson and Margaret Court couldn’t get the speed and muscle with wooden rackets.
With a couple of games in her romp still to be played, someone shouted from the seats, “Come on, Serena!” Must have been a sadist.
But the Sisters are coming on. Next big stop the US Open, starting August 30th. But for one teeny-weeny lost point, Serena might be shooting for a Grand Slam at Flushing Meadow. She blew a semifinals match point against Samantha Stosur at the French Open. Had she tacked that title onto her Australian Open she would be three-quarters of the way to that rarest accomplishment, achieved by only three women before her: Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Steffi Graf. Well, not even Sister Serena, is perfect.
At the victory ceremony Serena held high the championship platter called the Rosewater Dish. Now that there are nine of them in their Florida home, who does the polishing?
Numerous signs in the Wimbledon district are labeled SW 19. It’s the postal code, but someday it may mean Serena Williams, 19 major titles. She has 13.
The Statue of Liberty has been a major success, too. Wouldn’t it be a terrific photo op with them together?