Serena Williams will not be playing in the year-end Women’s Tennis Association Finals in Singapore. She has stated she has a shoulder injury. I believe it might be a run-down psyche that deserves all the time it needs.
After two decades at or near the very highest echelon on the professional tour, and having narrowly missed the rarest of feats in tennis — the calendar-year Grand Slam — why not take a sabbatical?
The physical body takes longer to recover as one ages: take it from me! I once ran a 3:40 marathon. It was a personal best in the city where, coincidentally, my daughter was later born. At the time, about 10 years ago, I was convinced I would break into the 3:30s. It never happened. By the time Ellen was a year old, I started running marathons in four hours plus. I found my peace with that, but it wasn’t easy. A few years ago, I moved into the five-hour range. Yikes! I had to ask myself if I could still put in all the hours of training, endure the discomfort (as a Plain Quaker I take nothing for the pain), stay motivated, and swallow my pride a little.
Fortunately, yes. Helping a friend train for his first marathon and running my last five as fundraisers has made many of those miles go by pretty smoothly. I’ve stayed in the five-hour range and injury-free. In a few months, I hope to complete my 18th marathon. I will stop at 20 unless Ellen wants to run one with me years from now.
But I’m a weekend warrior who is carried year after year by the adrenalin rush after completing a 26.2 mile course even when I get passed these days by people who juggle when they run or wear giant bunny suits. If I’m having an off day, I’m still a hero to my family and friends just for crossing the finish line!
Serena? She’s 35, has won 22 major titles in singles alone, is for many of us the greatest player ever, and has won enough prize money to purchase a small country. If she keeps playing, she could tie or surpass Margaret Court who won a record 24 major championships, although seven of her 11 Australian titles were played before the Open era, and all were won before 1974 when it was more like the U.S. Clay Courts than a true Grand Slam tournament. Steffi Graf, with whom Serena is currently tied at 22, likely won at least seven of those because Monica Seles was stabbed before she even reached her peak.
So what does Serena have left to prove? Nothing. But she has a champion’s pride. The pride comes with a price, especially if Serena’s ranking takes a slow, steady slide, but I believe she’ll see the larger picture, win 25 majors, and then retire on her terms.