|Serena Williams is not only perhaps the best athelete playing today, she may also be the greatest female athlete in history, based on her winning record. (Photo screen captured from YouTube video)|
By Melissa Isaacson
She did think about it. With a wink and her best champion's smile, Serena Williams admitted Saturday that, yes, New York did enter her mind.
"It took me a little while," she said, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face. "I think when I did my interview for BBC after the match, I did the whole presentation, I did the whole walk around the court. I was peaceful, feeling really good. Maybe a little after that I started thinking about New York."
That's a big admission for someone who does not like to peek too far ahead lest she somehow get left behind. But this was different. This is different. With her Wimbledon title and Serena Slam behind her, Williams said that she is going into the US Open in September feeling "OK" about pursuing the Grand Slam. That she is going to New York with some confidence, which is a little like Warren Buffett saying he's going shopping with some money.
And now we can talk about it. Savor it. With women still fighting for equal prize money, equal treatment and equal appreciation in the eyes of American sports fans -- appreciation perhaps having risen with the United States' recent Women's World Cup victory -- we now have a head start for our next great opportunity.
Serena Williams' pursuit of the US Open title -- the tourney runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 -- should be treated with all the awe and all the hype of any sporting event we have. A triumph in Flushing Meadows would be Williams' fourth straight Open title, fifth straight Slam and 22nd overall, tying Steffi Graf for the lead in Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era.
And rising above all the rest, it would also mark the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Graf accomplished the feat in 1988.
What Williams is doing and how she is doing it, fending off all challengers -- young, old, friends, rivals, siblings -- under pressure Graf never had but with the ultimate dominance and grittiness the likes of which we have seldom seen, makes it one of those moments.
It's the one where we tell our kids all about the Williams' family story: how two little girls, Serena and older sister Venus, grew up in poverty-stricken Compton, California, coached by their self-taught father, Richard, on broken-down public courts, chose not to compete on the junior tennis circuit and rose to become two of the greatest champions the game has ever seen.
How the littlest girl Serena, with the love of her big family and the unconditional support of Venus, battled injuries and a life-threatening illness in 2011 to sustain a 20-year career -- and not just sustain it, but to become in the eyes of virtually every tennis expert, including former stars, the greatest women's tennis player of all time.