As the world pays tribute to Serena Williams, the best to ever do it – it’s worth considering that we may never see anyone like her again.
Williams’ retirement was confirmed this morning in the September issue of Vogue magazine, which Todd Woodbridge said was a fitting end.
“In typical Serena fashion, she’s done it in her own way, in her own words – which epitomises how she’s transcended tennis, and sport, and become a popular figure, and a dynamic figure, in the world,” he told Wide World of Sports.
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“From where she came from; the humble beginnings to where she is now, the journey has just been incredible.
“She carried this aura of authority, and an amazing ability to have self-belief and turn negative emotions into a positive result. That always stood out.”
Woodbridge said Williams had handled a level of scrutiny and spotlight that few others had ever been subjected to, and done so brilliantly.
“She’s had her moments where she struggled but she’s always bounced back from them,” he said.
“She’s a great inspiration for any athlete to look at and show what’s required.”
The 22-time grand slam winner was blunt when asked if any future player could leave the same legacy.
“No,” he said.
“She’s broken down those barriers for so many women, not just in sport but in the business world as well – and that’s her legacy.
“Not only did she open the sport up for more women, she opened it up for more people from all walks of life – be that different ethnicities, or financial backgrounds.”
Williams lost an enthralling three-setter to Harmony Tan in the opening round at Wimbledon back in June, with many fearing we may never see her on court again afterwards.
“Even at Wimbledon this year she was a long way from her best, but there was still this fire to leave everything she possibly could there,” Woodbridge said.
“When she was in her prime, some of those grand slam finals where she walked out and blew her opponents away from the very first point – it was just an intimidating affair.”
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Williams’ career will end at the US Open, where the parochial crowds will be unlike any we’ve seen before.
Woodbridge says the challenge now is to not get caught up in the moment, despite the gamut of emotions.
“It becomes very hard to focus on actually playing a match, as you use a lot of energy off the court rather than on it,” Woodbridge said.
“I think it’s the right call to finish at the US Open – it’s the place that made her, it’s the place where she had triumph and disaster.”
Now, Williams will get the chance to finish her career on the highest of high notes, and claim her 24th major win.
“That last tournament, it’ll be great to watch – she’s made the right call, she gave herself enough time to see if she could get her game and her body back to it’s very best, but age just hasn’t let that happen.
“She can still win matches, but it would be tough to see her going all the way and finishing with an absolute fairytale.
“What happens is that at that age, when you haven’t had the body of tennis for the last couple of years now, the recovery is really tough.”
Williams got her preparation off to a solid start in the Canadian Open with a straight sets win over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz in the first round, and now faces 12th seed Belinda Bencic.
Woodbridge said it’s key that Williams gets as much tennis under her belt as possible before the US Open begins on August 29.
“You can play great for a day or two, but then it catches up. But if she can have a decent run in these lead-up tournaments, then it changes,” he said.
“If she goes into it with some matches behind her and the draw unfolds in a particular way, then you never know – she could do something like Pete Sampras did.”
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