There are perhaps not enough superlatives to describe Serena Williams’ career. The American has dominated tennis for the best part of two decades. She has broken record after record. She has redefined what it means to be a woman in sport, demanding and achieving parity with her male counterparts. Some of her achievements will not be recorded in the history books however, like the time she won the Australian Open – one of tennis’ most gruelling tournaments due to the extreme heat – while eight-weeks pregnant. She is, in short, a phenomenon.
Despite her prowess on the court, tennis careers are agonisingly short for all players and even someone as gifted as Williams cannot hold back time indefinitely. In truth, the 36-year-old Williams has been in a phase of semi-retirement for several years now, picking and choosing her tournaments to fit around the demands of her body and busy schedule. She has not been in a competitive tennis match since that remarkable Australian Open win in January 2017.
Williams has designs on record-breaking Grand Slam
However, her comeback is on the horizon. She was expected to return at the start of the 2018 to defend her Australian Open crown, but had to withdraw after a pulmonary embolism, occurring after giving birth in September 2017, delayed her return to training. Williams is expected to return to action at some point in 2018 though, possibly creating one of the greatest of sporting swansongs in the process.
Most fans will be hoping that her return will take in the French Open (21st May – 1st June), which is one of tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments. Williams will undoubtedly play some competitions beforehand in order to get match-fit for the season. However, the French Open is the one that counts as it offers Williams the chance to make history. Margaret Court, an Australian player who dominated women’s tennis in the 1960s and early 1970s, currently holds the record for most Grand Slams single’s titles with 24. Serena Williams is just one behind her with 23 Grand Slams.
The odds are in favour of Williams equalling that record, as 5/1 favourite to win the French Open with Betway. Her opponents will include Simona Halep (11/2) and Garbiñe Muguruza (8/1), 10 and 12 years younger than Williams respectively. The younger generation will hold no fear for Williams however, she has defied her critics and convention time and time again in her career.
Wimbledon 2018 could be the scene of something special
Should she equal Court’s record in Paris, then the next step for Williams will be to stand out on her own by winning her 25th Grand Slam title. Fittingly, that could take place at Wimbledon (2nd-15th July), a tournament she has won seven times since 2003. She is bookmakers’ favourite for that one too, with the 3/1 odds reflecting her excellence on a grass court.
With realistically only a year or two remaining for Serena Williams in tennis, these next few months should be savoured by tennis fans and, indeed, fans of women in sport. Williams is often cited as the greatest female player of all time. But, such has been her impact, defining her through her gender is not sufficient. She is simply one of the greatest athletes in history, one who richly deserves to end her career as it started – on a thrilling high.