In a quick match Saturday, July 14, Serena Williams lost what would have been her 24th major title to Angelique Kerber. This was Serena's first tournament back after a difficult childbirth less than a year ago. Her ranking dropped to the high 100s by the time Wimbledon began, but she found her way back again in the finals.
Serena has always been a head-turner in the world of tennis. She seems to set a new record at every match and is one of the best-known names not just in tennis, but in all sports. And once again, at this latest Wimbledon, she had an immense impact on the tennis world. While most women players basically retire after childbirth, Serena decided she wasn't ready to let go. This came with judgment from some people and praise from others.
When Serena decided to drop out of the French Open because she was not yet ready to compete, many people questioned if it was the right idea for her to come back at all. I mean, she's the greatest female tennis player of all time but at the end of the day she's still a woman, so it's unrealistic to come back from childbirth, right? Wrong. As she started making her way through the draw despite her abysmal world ranking of #181, we began to see commercials with montages of Serena playing with a 30-second blurb about how inspiring she is.
Little by little, the old-fashioned people of the tennis community are starting to understand the double standard they have for women players. Players who retire to be with their child are seen as weak, but Serena was seen as a poor mother for coming back so soon. It was time to update this mindset, and Serena did just that.
For the first time in years, Serena had a cause for which to win. When she first started playing, her cause was to inspire young black girls to start playing tennis. Now she had the new cause of playing for working mothers. She was obviously very aware of and emotional about this issue in her interview after the final. "But for all the moms out there," she stated with a shaky voice, "I was playing for you today, and I tried." The crowd then erupted in support for the Wimbledon runner-up, as she had won the battle of proving the worth and strength of working mothers.
Angelique Kerber transformed her victory interview into a tribute to her opponent. Her very first words to the interviewer were, "First, I have to say, Serena, you are a great, great person and a champion." It seemed like everyone including Kerber was pulling for Serena in some degree. Everyone loves a comeback story, and it's not every day we get to see one live on ESPN.
Since she first started playing professionally in 1995, Serena Williams has been a pioneer in the Women's Tennis Association. Twenty-three years later she continues to inspire the world not only with her skill but also her heart on the tennis court.