Nick Nelson – Alexandria, VA
Coming into the Wimbledon tournament, stuck at 21 Grand Slam titles, people were asking if 34-year-old Serena Williams had already reached her peak. Lacing up her sneakers, grabbing her racket, taking a deep breath and walking out on the court, Williams was pitted against the world’s best tennis players and knew many though she would fail. They were wrong.
At the 2016 Wimbledon tournament, Serena Williams downed Angelique Kerber in the final in two sets, tying Steffi Graf for most Grand Slam titles at 22. She avenged, not just a previous defeat – when Kerber downed Williams in the 2016 Australian Open – but also a second, as she had previously lost in the 2016 French Open.
In the midst of competing at Wimbledon, with so much else on the Williams sisters’ minds, their father, Richard, suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. He has since been released, but suffers the after effects. It’s believed the sisters knew of the medical scare, but kept it private.
Through everything else a tournament as taxing as Wimbledon put her through, Serena had to compartmentalize a family emergency, and still comes out a champion.
When asked by a reporter how she felt about being “one of the greatest female athletes of all time,” her response was so appropriately Serena, and such a wonderful reminder of why she is one of the greatest role models anyone can have: “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’”
We can never know if she’s living her life with “role model” in mind, or if she just wants to go out there and play tennis, and be more than “just a girl” on the court. Serena Williams is an activist, intentional or not. She is making a difference with her actions and her words. With any luck, we’ll stop trying to qualify athletes like Serena, Alex Morgan, Sheryl Swoopes and Danica Patrick as female athletes, and instead refer to them as what they are: athletes.