Sunday, July 10, 2016

The greatest. Ever.

So maybe you took your eye off the ball, this one time. It's summer, you're busy, and what happened yesterday happened on the other side of the Atlantic, which might as well be Mars in a time when Americans seem more inclined to be inward-looking than most.

(And, yes, stuff is happening here, most of it bad and ugly and hateful and violent. But that's another Blob for another time)

Anyway ... maybe you took your eye off the ball. But yesterday in England, on a patch of grass as hallowed as any in the world, Serena Williams won here seventh Wimbledon title and her 22nd Grand Slam title. And it is time to pause and acknowledge what has obvious for awhile, but which we sometimes forget, given that it's tennis and tennis occupies a very small and very dim place in the American sporting conscience.

It's time to acknowledge that we are right now watching the greatest woman athlete of all time.

We're watching a woman who has exploded every conventional notion in her sport, the most prevalent being that tennis players, and especially women players, are incubated and grow to full flower by the time they're in their early 20s. By the time they're Serena's age -- 34 -- they're sitting in a broadcast booth somewhere, chronicling the rise and achievements of the next generation.

Yet here is Serena, still the best tennis player in the world. She's won nine Grand Slams since she turned 30. She won her first Wimbledon title 14 years ago. There is no precedent for this in the  history of tennis, or at least its modern history. And if Steffi Graf, whose mark of 22 Grand Slams Serena tied yesterday, might still have been the most dominant player in history in her prime, Serena's prime has lasted far longer.

"Greatest ever" is a phrase best handled the way you'd handle a vial of nitroglycerine. But you may handle it now.

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