The lights outside the big apple shined a little brighter this past week as an athletic icon gave us yet another reason to believe that life does not end at 40. Ali. Kobe. Tiger. Serena. All on first name basis due to notoriety of dominance, all have changed not only their respective sports but the world. The record-breaking attendance and ticket prices for the U.S. Open first and second rounds after her announcement this would be her last are testament to how truly special Serena Jameka Williams has been for the last twenty-odd years. Her absurd resume includes 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 14 doubles all with sister Venus, Olympic gold and twice won all four Grand Slams within a year creating the “Serena-Slam”. Now in the twilight of her incredible career she has nothing to lose, and her play reflects it.
A cold, noticeable sweat began to pour from the rest of the field as her power-shots started painting corners again and again on Wednesday night. Overwhelming the #2 world ranked Anett Kontaveit with nasty first serves and deep-shot accuracy, Serena turned back the clock at Flushing Meadows with inspired play and the reckless abandonment of someone with no tomorrow. In attendance that evening was someone who also knows a little bit about proving people wrong and coming back. Tiger had spoken and mentored Serena in the months leading up to the tournament, his small smile coming to a crescendo with a full-blown fist pump as she dominated the 3rd set.
The put away backhand after an almost unreturnable serve for the match brought the already raucous sell-out crowd to their feet, as she finished her career of first and second U.S. Open rounds completely perfect, undefeated. As she executed her trademark spin and bow, the audience roared its approval of the gladiator still before them, genuinely appreciating the greatness of Williams one more time. It may say Arthur Ashe on the front of that stadium, but it is truly the house that Serena built.