Serena Williams Is One Of The Greatest Athletes Of All Time
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Serena Williams Is One Of The Greatest Athletes Of All Time

In an interview with Common, Williams asserted that if she were a man, she would’ve been in that “conversation a long time ago.”

Serena Williams Is One Of The Greatest Athletes Of All Time

In a Dec. 19 interview with the rapper Common, Serena Williams said that if not for her gender, she would’ve been considered one of the greatest athletes “a long time ago.”

And it’s true.

Williams has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era—beginning in 1968, it marked when the Grand Slam tournaments allowed professional players to compete with amateurs—more than any player, male or female. She has 38 major titles, four Olympic gold medals, and she has been the World No. 1 player for a total of 309 weeks.

And yet, Williams is consistently put in comparison to her noted rival, Maria Sharapova, whom she has won 19 out of 21 head-to-head matches against since 2004. Despite being solidly beaten by Williams, Sharapova has a net worth estimated at $195 million from endorsements and on-court earnings, against Williams’ $145 million. That is mostly attributed to race; Sharapova is blonde and white and slim; Williams is not.

Roger Federer, commonly lauded as the greatest tennis player of all time, has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles. He has held the World No. 1 position for 302 weeks. And yet, when I googled, “Who is the greatest tennis player in the world?” both ESPN and IBT Times ranked Federer above Williams. I’m not a tennis genius, so I’m sure there are other mitigating factors, but based on the statistics alone, the fact that Williams is not held in equal or greater accord to Federer is mind-blowing.

So in the interview, Common asked, “As we talk about black people being marginalized and women being marginalized, do you think it’s ironic that a black woman is in the conversation as the greatest athlete ever?”

Serena answered, “I think that being a woman is just a whole new set of problems from society that you have to deal with, as well as being black, so it’s a lot to deal with—and especially lately…Women make up so much of this world, and, yeah, if I were a man, I would have 100 percent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago.”

And it may be only now as we’re entering a new conversation about blackness and womanhood in America that we’re able to recognize Serena’s greatness. But Williams has recognized it since the beginning.

“I definitely scrutinized because I was confident—I was black and I was confident,” said Williams, “And I am black and I am confident. But I would say, ‘I feel like I can be No. 1.’…Well, why shouldn’t I say that? If I don’t think I’m going to be the best, why do I play?”

Williams is one of the greatest athletes of all time, and certainly the greatest tennis player of all time. And in a world, and particularly an industry, of cosseted male-dominated whiteness, that feat is made all the more incredible.

“There was a time,” Williams said, “when I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body because I felt like I was too strong. I had to take a second and think, ‘Who says I’m too strong? This body has enabled me to be the greatest player that I can be.”

Be the best player you can be.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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