“Give me a little cheer because I really need it!” Serena Williams said this week after winning her first match in 11 trauma-filled months. So, here it goes, Serena: Hooray! We, too, are delighted for you that you're back.
But also more than a bit concerned.
Four months ago, Williams was on what she calls her “death bed,” laboring to breathe because of potentially life- and career-threatening blood clots on both lungs. Before that, she sliced open her right foot on glass at a restaurant, had double surgery to repair the damage and was locked in a cast for 20 weeks. To cap it all, in injecting herself twice a day with blood thinners to help combat the clots, she developed a bloody bruise “the size of a grapefruit on my stomach” that also had to be surgically removed.
Yet now, and even though she still puffs heavily after punishing, long rallies, Williams is again one of the favorites to win Wimbledon.
An uplifting personal story if she pulls it off. Champion, back from death’s door, and all that. But how acutely embarrassing for women's tennis.
Doubly so if her opponent on final day is her sister, Venus, also making a mini-comeback from an injured right hip.
Such a scenario would be further proof, as if more proof is needed, of their talents and drive, and push back talk that, at age 29 for Serena and 31 for Venus, they’re about due for a precipitous decline.
But what an indictment a Williams win would be for all the other women who, by now, really should be making a far bigger imprint on the game. The 10 top-ranked players have just nine major titles between them. Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki has none.
Still overshadowed by aging players of today. Maria Sharapova, at 24, was the youngest semifinalist at the French Open, with Marion Bartoli, 26, Li Na, 29, and Francesca Schiavone, 30.
This year's French Open was also the first where none of the top three seeded women reached the quarterfinals.