Serena Williams Sports Illustrated Person of the Year
by Kai EL’ Zabar
“What matters is not how you fall but how you get up and what you do after you’re up.”
We’ve witness her trials, the “agony and the ecstasy.” We’ve seemed her defeats and her triumph. We’ve observed her over the years face adversity and push through.
We see the matured, evolved Serena who has emerged. As she has been quoted saying, to paraphrase, ‘I’m still me but I’ve tried different solutions to familiar issues to get different results’ . . . .
She recalls a match against her old rival Maria Sharapova in Australia this year when she received a ‘hindrance call,’ she was able to laugh it off but three years ago at the US open, “I wasn’t able to laugh it off.” Instead the best female payer in the game when off on the chair umpire. It was not her best moment. Serena says, ” I am a very passionate player. I bring all of my passion to the game. But I’m learning to redirect it so that it helps me rather than harms me.”
Serena is without question an extraordinary sportsperson and so to be acknowledged as Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year is well deserved joining the likes of 1972 Billie Jean King and 1976 Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the year who have given her much praise.
It’s a well deserved award, ambiguous and not limited to sports it speaks to the manner of woman she is. I think Chris Everett said it best, “She has emerged as the dominant player on the women’s tour and has handled the spotlight with grace.”
Serena has marched many carpets, red and concrete. She had managed to remain a part of the world rather than hiding away from it behind closed doors in high places. She has recognized the world in which she lives and doesn’t separate herself from the people. Consequently, she has been involved in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. She’s even taken Civil Rights courses to be better prepared. She has designed clothes, acted a role in a movie, recorded a song and was 53 in 3.
But perhaps her greatest accomplishment was her return to Indian Wells Tournament after 13 years. The memory was much too painful. It was there where as a teenager she was booed. Back in 2001, crowds booed a young Serena as she took on Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final of the competition now known as the BNP Paribas Open. As she explains it, “You would expect the crowd of mostly Americans to cheer a fellow American but spectators backed Clijsters in scenes former tennis champion and broadcaster Pam Shriver said were difficult to watch. Serena and her family were not treated with respect. Still with the memory deeply seated in her memory she decided that this is the year to push pass the fear, express forgiveness and face the bogey man. She did but had t pull out due to injury. This time the people cheered her.
All this she did as a Black Woman in a white arena during a socially polarizing year of gender bias and racially explosive protests. She has engaged in the world proving that she has much to contribute on and off the court.
Serena Williams is zooming at lightening speed beyond $74 million in prize money, beyond one of the greatest late-career runs in sports history—into celebrity hyperspace. That’s how it is when you’re part of the tight gender. Yep this is the year of woman and the women are coming on strong. And though she didn’t when all four grand slams Seres put forth the best she had in the face of adversity. She faced her body literally working against her yet she never quit. So there’s next year.
Still we can’t deny that Serena rocked 2015 Williams hit and the freak moment that determined her fate in New York didn’t clench that historical moment she was going after but she stood tall the leading force in women’s tennis.
It’s been a storybook windsong. She danced with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve. She spent a night telling bedtime stories to the children of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. She grew up like all children in her generation embracing Harry, was starstruck over Oprah Winfrey and witnessed Martha Stewart a business mogul and watched J.K. Rowling merge in that world of awesome super women. The same JK Rowling that was tweeting against a critic of Serena’s body,and Oprah committed to watching her at the U.S. Open, While Martha Stewart was calling Serena “the most powerful woman I know.” Clearly thesis the time of world hear them roar!
Serena’s awesome accomplishments have not been in vain. Congratulations Serena Williams for being a badass, a President Obama would say. Thank you for being a role mode for all girls in the world.