When Serena was named Sports Illustrated's sportsperson of the year, I was pleased. She's still there, dominant at 34, an age when most in women's tennis would have called it a day. This year she played through obvious sickness and injury and still came out on top. She was so ill during the French Open that I wished she would throw in the towel and go home. She was painful to watch then. Every forehand winner seemed like it was being pulled from her life force.
This year, we were confronted with "the meaning of Serena." She had a year like no other, losing only one grand slam match out of 28. If you add that to her 69 career titles, her 21 grand slam wins, her $74 million career prize money, her 85% win rate over the course of her career, it is easy to see why several call her the greatest female tennis player of all time. However, her success is often dwarfed by the criticism that is thrown at her. She is trolled almost incessantly by fans of the sport, officials of the sport and the media.
What Serena has had to Endure:
The president of the Russian Tennis Federation referred to her and Venus as the Williams Brothers.
After she won Wimbledon this year, the editor of the Atlantic suggested that she was on Steroids.
This is a difficult claim to make because all of her tests have been clean. In fact she's so determined to not fail a drug test that she didn't take flu meds during the French Open.
In 2009, right after she defeated Venus at the Wimbledon final, Jason Whitlock, a commentator on Fox Sports wrote the following.
- "With a reduction in glut, a little less butt and a smidgen more guts, Serena Williams would easily be as big as Michael Jackson, dwarf Tiger Woods and take a run at Rosa Parks."
- "there's an inescapable truth about Serena Williams: She's an underachiever."
- "I'm only knocking Serena's back pack because it's preventing her from reaching her full potential as an athletic icon."
Serena Williams has a muscular frame. Her rivals choose not to emulate her physique http://t.co/IecMzg4AwV pic.twitter.com/gEGHd3NI3z— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 10, 2015
She's been heckled by racists mid match.
She earns $10 million less than Sharapova in endorsements despite being unarguably better than her. Serena leads their head to head 18 - 2, and no one will forget their London Olympic final where the scores were 6-0, 6-1, in favour of Serena.
To be Serena is to do exceedingly even when the odds are against you. Despite how quick everyone is to put you down, or discredit you. It is to surmount difficulty at every turn. So when Sports Illustrated named her Sportsperson of the year I was pleased. The interview that they did was brilliant too, but all of my good feelings died when I saw that some people thought that American Pharoah, a horse, should have won instead.
@SInow Seriously???? Did she/any win a TripleCrown (or sports event) not done since 1978? A joke @jazz3162 End of reading your mag! #AP— HorseBelle (@seabiscuit7) December 14, 2015
One of the weird things about this is the comparison between a black woman and a horse.@SInow @SI_ChrisStone @serenawilliams American Pharoah is the winner-hands down. You people are ridiculous.— Looise (@Looise1) December 14, 2015
I for one do not believe that a horse should ever win Sportsperson of the year. If anything, it should be the jockey. There is a reason why horses are ridden when they race. It is that left to them, they wouldn't be racing. They would be eating grass, sleeping, and gamboling on a field somewhere. When Jenson Button wins, do you put the car on the podium or the man? Sure, it's a brilliant car, but in my hands, that brilliant car is not a winner. It is an accident waiting to happen.
Then there's the thought that this would not be happening if she were white. That allegation makes people uncomfortable but it is true.
When she wins, people would rather talk about her ass than they would the fact that she won.
When she plays well she overpowers her opponents. She hardly ever receives praise for her smart plays on the court. Why is she praised for her physicality and not her wit?
And even if she wasn't as amazing a player as she is, her endeavours off the court are nothing but inspiring. Particularly when she speaks out about social issues. In one of the most racially divisive years in recent American History hers is a voice that needs to be heard.
In the words of Sport's Illustrated:
"We are honoring Serena Williams too for reasons that hang in the grayer, less comfortable ether, where issues such as race and femininity collide with the games. Race was used as a cudgel against Williams at Indian Wells in 2001, and she returned the blow with a 14-year self-exile from the tournament. She returned to Indian Wells in '15, a conciliator seeking to raise the level of discourse about hard questions, the hardest ones, really."
This is something that a horse, no matter how brilliant, well trained, well ridden or genetically superior, could not possibly do. It is far easier to be inspired by a human being than it is by a horse. And if you think otherwise, chances are that you are a centaur in hiding.