If ever there were an athlete I simply delighted in seeing win, it’s 23-time Grand Slam champ Serena Williams. The 40-year-old living legend in “no rush” to retire has faced her fair share of adversity, from racism to her life-threatening childbirth experience to the ensuing mom guilt she described in balancing work and parenthood. The thing about Williams, though, is that she usually seems to come out a better competitor and more well-rounded person after it all.
This proved true yet again on Wednesday when she bested Estonian competitor Anett Kontaveit in the second round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. Williams has a shot at tying with tennis champion Margaret Court, who set an all-time record of 24 major singles titles victories in 1973. Yet and still, the Black tennis star continues to be discounted, her ability to churn out a win questioned with every imperfection she shows. Perhaps that’s why a journalist asked Williams if she was surprised at her level of play—so stunning a question to both Williams and onlookers that the moment with viral.
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"What?" Williams asked.
"Are you surprised at yourself with your level?" ESPN’s Mary Jo Fernandez asked again.
When Williams chuckled, Fernandez replied, "No, I know." And then the tennis star answered.
"I mean, I'm just Serena, you know," she said.
She went on to say lightly, "Well, I'm a pretty good player" before answering the reporter's question more seriously.
"This is what I do best," Williams said. "I love a challenge. I love rising to the challenge, and yeah, I haven't played many matches, but I've been practicing really well."
"And my last few matches it just wasn't coming together. I'm like, 'But this isn't me.' And the last couple matches, here, in New York, it's really come together. Maybe I should’ve traveled with you all for all those years."
During the event that also featured commentators appearing to misidentify singer Dionne Warwick as Gladys Knight, Twitter users—both famous and otherwise—had a field day.
Journalist Master Tesfatsion tweeted: “’I’m just Serena’ is the most professional way I’ve heard someone say ‘Do you know who the (f--k) I am?’”
Vice President Kamala Harris gave the dignified response we've come to expect from a leader of our country. (Well, at least from the Democratic ones.) "Thank you @SerenaWilliams for inspiring people around the world with your talent, grace, and determination both on and off the court,” the vice president tweeted. “We celebrate all that you have been, all that you are, and all that is to come.”
Journalist Michele Norris similarly commended Williams, giving her exactly the praise she deserves.
The play of Serena is a thing to behold
But the mind of Serena. Whew!
The mental toughness & composure. The way she allows for playfulness.
She embraces the headwinds & accepts the target on her back. And through it all is clearly guided by LOVE.
Love of game
Love of self
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