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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Summer of Serena

While most of the country was absorbed in NFL football at the start of September, Serena Williams capped off one of the most impressive summers in the history of tennis.  In order to truly appreciate Serena's accomplishment, we need to take a trip back in time to March of 2011.

When Serena woke up on the morning of March 2, 2011, she was an American sporting princess.  At 29 years old, she had already won 13 Grand Slam singles titles.  On top of that, Serena had won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles with her older sister Venus.  Because of her dominance in both formats, Serena was rightfully mentioned in any conversation about the greatest female tennis players of all-time.  Properly included with the likes of Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.  Off the court, Serena had established herself as  a fashion mogul and had purchased a minority share of the Miami Dolphins.

Serena Williams had all that when she woke up on the morning of March 2, 2011.  Sure, Serena had recently been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to a foot injury, but that is the usual wear and tear that has to be expected for a tennis player approaching the big 3-0.  But, on the evening of March 2, 2011, Serena Williams was not just fighting for her place in tennis history.  She was fighting for her life.

On March 2, 2011, Serena Williams was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital for emergency treatment of a pulmonary embolism.  In layman's terms, a pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that gets loose and ends up in the lungs.  Roughly one third of all who suffer this condition die before they receive the necessary treatment.  After a lengthy recovery, Serena did return to the court in 2011.  But, she finished that year without a Grand Slam title and outside the top ten in the world rankings.  Williams started the 2012 Grand Slam season with a respectable performance at the Australian Open.  Then came the debacle at the French Open where she was eliminated in the first round.

Whispers of Williams' demise grew louder.

Then came July, and with July came Wimbledon.  For one of the few times in her life, Serena Williams was not coming into that tournament as a favorite.  But, Serena stormed through the field and won the singles title.  Despite the fact that this was her fifth Wimbledon championship, Serena acted like a little girl on Christmas morning when she was handed the trophy.  She hopped and giggled and then gathered herself to speak to the media with grace and class.  A few weeks later, Serena returned to the All England club for the 2012 Olympic competition.  In a dominating performance, Serena won the gold medal.  Then it was off to New York for the U.S. Open.  Serena was not the top seed for the final Grand Slam of the season, but she was the hottest player on the planet and the fan favorite.  And she did not disappoint.  Serena won the U.S. Open in a thrilling three-set final against top seeded Victoria Azarenka.

And thus, Williams overcame threats to her life and her career to make 2012 into the Summer of Serena.


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