We’re several weeks into our worldwide attempt to “flatten the curve” and have been offering daily escapes into the sporting events of yesteryear through our “Filling The Void” series. We’ve looked back on the inspiring, mind-boggling, and remarkable events as well as the ordinary, daily games we’ve been missing in our lives. We here at The Turf Sports sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and being safe through these trying days. We’d also like to take a moment to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of those front-line folks keeping society going – from the medical community to those stocking grocery store shelves, delivering supplies around the country or helping us all fight this virus together in some other essential, invaluable way. You are all heroes.
On another note, we here at The Turf have always been of the mind that standing up for what is right and standing up in opposition to hate and violence is necessary. For resources on how to help the fight against systemic racism in the United States please check out the following links: Black Visions Collective, LGBTQ Freedom Fund, National Bail Fund, Reclaim the Block, Color of Change, and Black Lives Matter.
Today: Serena Williams wins her first slam title at the US Open, beginning twenty years of dominance.
Serena Williams is the biggest name in Women’s Tennis, and there’s a good reason for it. Over the last twenty years, no female tennis player has won more titles than Williams. Seriously, it’s not even close.
Serena Williams has 73 singles titles to her name, 23 of which came in the form of Grand Slams. A Grand Slam is made up of the French Open, the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. In fact, Serena has won Grand Slam titles so often that the tennis world coined the term the “Serena Slam,” which is the act of being the reigning champion of all four grand slams at the same time, but not in the same season.
Serena came into the 1999 US Open ranked 7th in the world and faced an uphill climb to the Finals. She cruised through the first two rounds but ran into trouble in the third and fourth. Dropping the first set to both Kim Clijsters and Conchita Martinez, Serena had to fight back in both matches to get into the quarterfinals.
Williams then had to stare down two former US Open Champions in the form of 4th-ranked Monica Seles and reigning champion 2nd-ranked Lindsay Davenport. It took Serena the full three sets to win both matches (Seles in the quarters, Davenport in the semis), but after the hard-fought victories, she was getting her shot at the first major win of her career.
Waiting for her in the Finals was Martina Hingis, the top-ranked women’s tennis player at the time. After winning the Australian and French Opens, Hingis was looking to try and win her second calendar Grand Slam (winning all the titles in one year) since 1997. However, a surprise upset in the first round at Wimbledon dashed those hopes.
But here in Flushing at the US Open, she’s been proving her top-seed ranking was more than accurate. Hingis did not drop a single set until the semifinals against Serena’s sister, Venus. That’s a total of 11 straight sets without a loss. And now she meets the other Williams sister.
With the world watching to see if Hingis can get back on top and waiting for Serena’s rise to dominance, this is one of the pivotal moments in women’s tennis. Because for the first time in the Open Era, a black woman would hold the title of Grand Slam Champion.
It’s important to say that Serena was the first black woman to hold a Grand Slam title in the Open Era because there was one other before her. Althea Gibson was a professional tennis player and golfer in the 1950s. The Tennis Tour back then was for “amateurs” leading to the difference between Serena’s win and Gibson’s.
However, their dominance was similar. In the span of three years, Gibson won five of the twelve Grand Slam tournaments from 1956-1958. That’s the same kind of dominance that Serena would rise to in a few more years.
But “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And for Serena Williams, that step took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
For resources on how to help the fight against systemic racism in the United States and to call for an end to police brutality and law enforcement reform, please check out the following links: Black Visions Collective, LGBTQ Freedom Fund, National Bail Fund, Reclaim the Block, Color of Change, and Black Lives Matter.
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