I’ve been trying to write about Serena Williams all day long, but have found the task shockingly difficult. I mean, what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? At a certain point, you just run out of superlatives.
This year, a 32-year-old Serena won 11 titles, nearly 1/5 of her career total. Considering she won her first major in 1999, that’s absolutely insane.
She also won $12,385,572, nearly 1/4 of the money she’s earned in her entire career.
She beat 21 Top 10 opponents in 2013. She served up 25 bagels and 34 breadsticks. She was 78-4 on the year, only dropping 17 sets in 82 matches.
She played 20 more matches and had a higher winning percentage (95%) than she did any other year in her career.
“My motivation to play so much is just I don’t like to lose, so that’s why I play a lot of matches, because I win those matches,” she told reporters on Saturday.
She makes it sound so easy.
Since I’m still having trouble forming complete sentences, lets look at videos of all of her wins. I tried to find the short ones, so you could scroll through them.
Brisbane, d. Pavlyuchenkova 6–2, 6–1
Miami, d. Sharapova 4–6, 6–3, 6–0
Charleston, d. Jankovic 3–6, 6–0, 6–2
Madrid, d. Sharapova 6–1, 6–4
Rome, d. Azarenka 6–1, 6–3
Roland Garros, d. Sharapova 6–4, 6–4
Bastad, d. Larsson 6–4, 6–1
Toronto, d. Cirstea 6–2, 6–0
U.S. Open, d. Azarenka 7–5, 6–7(6–8), 6–1
Beijing, d. Jankovic 6–2, 6–2
Istanbul, d. Li 2–6, 6–3, 6–0
Sloane Stephens. Victoria Azarenka. Sabine Lisicki. These are the only players to beat Serena Williams this year. Azarenka was the only player to do it twice, both in finals. Stephens and Lisicki both took Serena out of majors, a fact that’s sure to light a fire under her for 2014, which is a thought that must be horrifying for her opponents.
This week at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Serena was far from her best. In fact, she admittedly “hit a wall” before her semifinal match against Jelena Jankovic, one of the more in-form players this week. But after Jankovic moved Serena’s dead legs around to take the second set, Serena found another gear. She decided not to give up. She burst through the wall and started to hit winner after winner, effectively taking the match off of Jankovic’s racket altogether.
The final against Li Na was much the same story. For a set and a half, Li was the better player. Her top game has the ability to rattle Serena, and considering Serena was sluggish and Li was in fine form, it was one-way traffic for the newly-minted world No. 3. But then Serena dug deep. You could literally see a wave of adrenaline and intensity wash over the No. 1, as she wrestled the match back into her control. And once Li wasted break points that would have allowed her to serve for the match in the second set, it was all over. There is a certain will and focus and belief that it takes to beat Serena, and all of it was beaten out of Li at that moment.
At the end of the day, we were just left with Serena. It was a fitting way to end 2013, one that unabashedly cemented Serena’s legendary status, and helped further her case for the GOAT title.
And I was left speechless, at least according to my usual standards. I want to write more about Serena. I feel like a season like this deserves more prose, more reflection, more applause. But I need it all to sink in. For now, I’ll just leave you with seven words from her press conference on Friday:
“I personally think I can do better.”