Serena after her women's singles win at Wimbledon. She likes to jump. I have inside information.
I'll start with confessions. I watched this match but didn't know it was Wimbledon until the announcers said the Duke of Windsor was going to award the trophy. I thought it was the US Open. Tennis scoring confuses me. When Serena fell down after a volley I thought she was hurt. Instead it was exhausted relief of the win and a moment to collect herself before the formal curtsies, on-court interview, and picture posing, including the one above which the reporters asked her to repeat again, and again. So even though I’m doing a post on this, don’t mistake me for someone who knows what she is talking about.
If my parents were alive, I would have known about this. I know how horrible that sounds, but it’s true. They kept up on every sport and felt a personal connection to the Williams sisters because the daughter of a friend worked for an accounting firm where the sisters were clients. She went shopping and apartment hunting with them. “Serena likes bright colors.” Mom said this like she was revealing classified information. “The girls have pillow fights and Serena likes to jump on the bed.” Not surprising, but interesting. What impressed my mother most was how nice they were. “They invite her for sleep-overs.” My mother thought it was sweet. I thought they sounded desperate for friends.
Saturday morning I made myself get on my treadmill which we bought six months ago, but I just started using this week. I turned on the TV to find something to make it tolerable. I found the match and it was in the second set with Serena heading for an easy victory. I thought the match and award ceremony would equal my 20 minute work-out. Wrong. When the match was over I had walk-jogged 59 minutes at a faster pace and steeper incline than I imagined possible. That’s the Serena effect.
After I started watching, Serena faltered, and her opponent took advantage winning the second set. I almost cried. By then they had told the backstory I remembered overhearing at a Starbucks over a year ago. Serena had a pulmonary embolism in her leg and had to have emergency surgery. At the time she didn't think she would ever return to tennis. Her goal was to survive. They also mentioned relationship problems, and Venus having an auto-immune disease. It’s been a tough year.
My father ridiculed these up close and personal stories until he saw their effect on my mother. She became a devoted fan of any athlete with a compeling story, and there were no more disagreements about watching sports during dinner. Mom bought a TV for the kitchen.
During the commercial break before the last set I sent encouragement vibes to Serena. She was winning until I came along, so I felt it was my duty to help her. I know how unreasonable that sounds, but Serena is admittedly superstitious (bounces the ball 5 times before each first serve, two before the second) so I think she would agree. “You can do it. You can do it.” I said it in rhythm to my steps and upped the pace to increase the intensity of the chant.
When Serena hit aces I cheered. When her opponent won a game I groaned. And when Serena finally won, and I finally understood that she won, I screamed so loud I scared myself. I was now my mother.
Serena had a tough year and so have I. I’m not going to do a comparison because it’s not a competition, it’s life. I love to see people struggle, survive, and thrive because that’s what makes me think I can do that too. I think that is what mom also loved about sports, but like so many things, we didn’t talk about it.
During the on-court interview, Serena was asked about the age thing. “Is thirty the new twenty?” Serena said, “Of course! It also helps that I feel 12 years old inside.”
An image of Serena flashed in my mind. Hope the hotel bed is strong and bouncy.
Serena was also in the women's doubles final later that afternoon with her sister Venus.
They won in two straight sets.
photos: Getty Images