‘I want winners.” That was the plaintive cry on billboards a year ago by Niners coach Mike Singletary. We all want winners. We all want champions. Losing, wrote John Tunis, is the great American sin.
Losing is everyone’s sin. They’re still apoplectic in England because the national team was bounced unceremoniously from the World Cup. Back home, what a stretch for the Giants. A June swoon of inordinate proportions. And July is no better.
All of this makes the championships of Serena Williams only that much more outstanding.
This lady is a winner. This lady is an American winner. On the world stage she stands virtually alone.
There’s something meaningful in being expected to succeed, and then succeeding. There’s something special in being able to produce on demand — yes, you’re allowed to think of Joe Montana — while pressures destroy most others.
Serena won Wimbledon again last weekend, as you know, crushing a poor Russian woman, Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-2. It was Serena’s second ladies title in a row, fourth overall and her 13th total Grand Slam. She’s the Yankees of the early ’50s. The Niners of the late ’80s. She’s fantastic.
Sunday night, there was a black-tie dinner for the champions at the Intercontinental Hotel. All the winners: juniors, wheelchair players, doubles teams, Rafael Nadal and Serena were in attendance, with maybe 250 others including a few hand-picked journalists.
The way she took control Saturday, needing only 67 minutes to win, she similarly took control late Sunday night. “I always bring a dress,” she explained, when someone in the post-match news conference asked if Williams had something to wear.
She almost always brings her class.
There was that incident last summer at the U.S. Open when her old Compton street toughness broke loose: Serena ripped out obscenities like she does forehands. There was brief suspension. Fines totaled $92,500.
Williams’ father, Richard, who taught her tennis, said the outburst and penalties might have been a proper lesson.
“I think it was in a way, good,” agreed Serena. “I said that straightaway. I think people always live life. When you’re like me, you live it in public. You make mistakes. You make errors, and then you make some great things. You make some winners, so to say.”
What Serena, 28, a year and a half younger than her equally talented sister, Venus, (five Wimbledon Championships), said she would like to make is a contribution to society. She doesn’t mean by compiling records on the court.
“My thing is I love dogs,” Serena explained. “I love my family. I love going to the movies. I love reading. I love going shopping. Like it’s not on my list to [break Margaret Court’s mark of 24 Slams].
“At the end of the day, I would love to open more schools in Africa or in the United States. I would love to be remembered: ‘OK, she was a tennis player, but wow, she really did a lot to inspire other people and help other people.’ That’s what I think about.”
And that’s what besides her play makes us think she’s a winner.