This year the tennis world has been focus almost singularly on one woman. Serena. As Serena goes for the US Open it is hard to avoid the history of the moment. Should she win in Flushing Meadows it will be her 22nd Major, her fifth straight Major title and the first Calendar Slam in over a quarter century. This would put her on par with Stephanie “Steffi” Graf with 22 Majors (coincidentally the last woman to win a Calendar Slam). As a Serena fan, this is more than a little exciting. However, what is disappointing is the relative dearth of media attention on such a dominant American athlete.
Serena’s year has been nothing if not exemplary. With four straight Majors and at one point in the year she had more than double the ranking points of the world’s number two (a feat that has not happened in tennis history) she has had a nearly perfect season. As a woman who came from Compton and has become the dominant player in her sport, she typifies the American Dream. Yet despite all this, many people are not paying as much attention to this history as they should.
For the past few years Serena has arguably been the most dominant American athlete in her field. But the mainstream sports focus on such a feat has been relatively low. Instead the focus has been on her body, and the bodies of female athletes focusing more on their aesthetic appeal over professional performance. This is a standard never applied to male athletes. Male athletes are admired for their performance first and aesthetics second. The fact that this is the largest mainstream conversation around this historic year for Serena and women’s tennis is inexcusable. We should be lauding Serena and all female athletes for their performance and professionalism and not disparage their appearance.
It is my fervent hope that as Serena goes into the US Open the eyes of America and the world turn toward Serena not as an object to be ogled at, but as a professional athlete who is at the top of her game. Serena chases a spot in history no other American holds, and deserved the admiration and support of her home nation as she pursues history.