The US Open 2020 represented the best chance for an aging Serena Williams to win that elusive 24th Grand Slam title and equal the record of Australian Margaret Court. Seeds Bianca Andreescu (6), Ashleigh Barty (1), Simona Halep (2), Kiki Bertens (7) and Elina Svitolina (5) are all not taking part.
But Williams, now 39, could not get past Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals, losing 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Prior to this, Williams had lost four Grand Slam finals in pursuit of Court’s record: Andreescu defeated her at the US Open in 2019, Angelique Kerber beat her at Wimbledon in 2018, Naomi Osaka took care of her in the 2018 US Open and Halep accounted for Williams at Wimbledon in 2019. In all those finals, Williams was unable to win more than four games in any set.
Williams took a break to have a child some years ago and after returning her only final win was in the Australian Open in 2017 when she beat her sister, Venus, 6-4, 6-4.
It looks like it is time to bow out, if not gracefully, then clumsily. One, unfortunately, cannot associate grace with Williams.
But, no, Williams has already signed up to play in the French Open which has been pushed back to September 27 from its normal time of May due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only Barty has said she would not be participating.
Sportspeople are remembered for more than mere victories. One remembers the late Arthur Ashe not merely because he was the first black man to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, but for the way he carried himself.
He was a great ambassador for his country and the soul of professionalism. Sadly, he died at the age of 49 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion.
Another lesser known person who was in the Ashe mould is Larry Gomes, the West Indies cricketer who was part of the world-beating sides that never lost a Test series for 15 years from 1980 to 1995.
Gomes quit after playing 60 Tests, and the letter he sent to the Board when he did so was a wonderful piece of writing, reflecting both his humility and his professionalism.
In an era of dashing stroke-players, he was the steadying influence on the team many a time, and was thoroughly deserving of his place among the likes of the much better-known superstars like Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd.
In Williams case, she has shown herself to be a poor sportsperson, far too focused on herself and unable to see the bigger picture.
She is at the other end of the spectrum compared to players like Chris Evert and Steffi Graf, both great champions, and also models of good fair-minded competitors.
It would be good for tennis if Williams leaves the scene after the French Open, no matter if she wins there or loses. There is more to a good sportsperson than mere statistics.