By N Oji Mzilikazi
9 July 2016
As I stumbled sleepy-eyed towards the living room to catch Breakfast at Wimbledon, my mind runs on Laj, a poster on the now defunct ESPN Tennis Message Board.
Back in 2002, Laj had the audacity to declare Serena Williams the most complete/best tennis player ever, even better than Steffi Graf.
Boasting, Laj predicted and promised the citizenry of the Message Board that Serena, whom he nicknamed Terror Fabulous, was going to surpass Graf in Grand Slam titles.
The immediate reaction was Laj had been drinking arsenic-laced Kool-Aid.
The thought of a Black girl dethroning the great Steffi Graf was unthinkable, unfathomable — and heresy. Rejection of Laj’s assertions were swift and brutal. Tennis fans that don’t like or care for the sisters, Williams sisters’ haters, and racists had another reason to hate — and a field day on the Board that lasted weeks.
Serena was still young. She hadn’t come into her own as yet in terms of amassing enough Grand Slams to be perceived as a threat. Serena had so many interests outside tennis that she never played a full season. That led to her being disparagingly spoken of as a part-time tennis player. (If I remember correctly, Serena became No. 1 in the world with 12 tournaments under her belt. Points from a player’s last 18 tournaments were used then to calculate rankings. Consequently, some players played the ranking game/maintained a high rank by playing week in and week out. Case in point: Martina Hingis). Lindsey Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis were perceived as obstacles in Serena’s path to exceed Graf. Plus, there was her big sister, the big serving Venus Williams.
In spite of technical weaknesses in her game, and Serena the sounder of the two, Venus Williams was indisputably the Queen of Tennis, and the only contender in sight; the only person on the trajectory to reach Graf. Even though Serena was a child of promise, so was Venus who was just getting in stride.
Pointed out was that Serena’s physique was a deterrent to her being a future great; equalling or surpassing Graf’s 22 Grand Slam totals.
Serena didn’t have that “success model” athletic build. Her breasts were too big; thunderous. Its weight hampers movement and that would affect her in the long run.
Lending credence to that school of thought was that the only other girl on tour with breasts nearly as large was Sandrine Testude, who was tall and had a slim built. And Testude was just an average player.
Serena’s size; thickness and big breasts (Methinks Serena did have breast reduction surgery.) proved to be no obstacle in her stellar career. Serena is inarguably one of the fittest females in the WTA.
Today, is the third time this year, Serena Williams is on the threshold of history; tying Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam titles. Standing in the way is Angelique Kerber who denied Serena the 2016 Australian Open title.
That Serena could reach the finals of the Australian Open, the French Open, and now Wimbledon, at the ripe age of 35 (Okay, she’s a few months short.) is a testament to her fitness and greatness. Win or lose today, congratulations is in order.
I’m rooting for you Terror Fabulous.