LONDON – Her black hair explodes toward the sky like she’s under constant electric shock. Her dress is All-American – red, white and blue with the boom the world has come to expect from Serena Williams. The crowd around her stands and screams.
Williams stares straight ahead, her lips not moving and her eyes hardly blinking. This is a master at work. Sit back and appreciate.
“I had no idea I would play like this,” Williams will say later. “I was just playing unbelievable.”
When Williams goes like this, especially here on the grass at Wimbledon, even the best players in the world turn into faceless henchwomen. Vera Zvonareva is a Russian currently ranked 13th in the world but lasted just 51 minutes in a 6-1, 6-0 match exactly as close as the score looks.
Williams is doing more than winning here, more than dominating. She is changing the way her opponents think and play – a pair of Italians ranked second in the world say they’ll only hit toward Serena’s sister Venus in a doubles match today.
This is another historical moment in a career full of them. This is a woman already among the best to play her sport playing it as well as it’s been played.
Serena ripped backhands by Zvonareva’s short-side, forehands through her reach, and serves through her personal space. The radar gun showed 193 kilometers an hour – the equivalent of more than 120 miles per hour. Once, she won a game with four straight aces.
She has made more in tennis winnings than anyone in her sport’s history, an estimated net worth of $90 million and a place in history as sturdy as those thighs. Fourteen Grand Slam championships, including five here at Wimbledon.
But she is here anyway, attacking like a lion in a tournament without prize money. This is something different for Serena. This is the chance to play doubles with her sister, win her first gold medal in singles, move along her argument as the best women’s tennis player in history.
This is also the Olympic spirit personified, even if it comes packaged in a one-percenter.
“Women’s gymnastics was ridiculously incredible for USA,” she is saying. “Everyone did so amazing. I had chill bumps and water and tears in my eyes. I was just so happy.”
This is the American tennis version of USA Basketball, a historically successful woman with all the fame and money she could ever want outwardly inspired by the relative unknowns of the Olympics. She is dominating her field while being awed by everyone else.