The cycle began in 1979 when Tracy Austin won the U.S. Open when she was just 16 years old. Later, in 1997, Martina Hingis, a tennis player from Switzerland, won the Australian Open when she was also 16 years old and became the youngest Grand Slam winner of her century. Next up was legend Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon when she was 17.
Then came the Williams sisters in 1994 and 1995 when both turned professional at age 14 and dominated the tennis world. However, as Hingis, Austin, Sharapova and the Williams sisters have gotten older, their once-extraordinary age has faded into the crowds’ claps and roars as time has passed.
Age creeps up on all tennis players, especially tennis veterans, and it is becoming a crucial and leading factor in any player’s game. Recently during the French Open, Jeļena Ostapenko, a 20-year-old player whom no one saw coming, demonstrated her power as a quick, talented youth, which raised her chances of success well over her opponent.
Ostapenko, unseeded in the French Open, fought her way to win the championship with her unrivaled baseline hits. She turned 20 during the competition and reminded the world that the younger generation is knocking its racket against the door and making its way to the top. Ostapenko’s youth and victory would not be forgotten because a month later, Garbiñe Muguruza would be a reminder for tennis veterans to watch out.
There is a cycle where young tennis players rise into the spotlight by defeating tennis veterans time after time in grand slams. The most recent cycle had ended until the Williams sisters rose into the scene and completely dominated their opponents. Serena, then 17, defeated Hingis, who was once a part of the younger generation but in that match was the tennis veteran.
Now, in the final round of Wimbledon 2017, Muguruza, a 23-year-old tennis player from Spain, beat 37-year-old legend and one of the main tennis veterans, Venus Williams. With a 14-year age gap, Muguruza defeated Venus 7-5, 6-0.
From Serena defeating Hingis to Muguruza beating Venus, the cycle begins anew.
Serena Williams, arguably the best women’s tennis player of all time, is definitely a tennis veteran. Serena is 35 years old, but still is dominating in the rankings and winning grand slam titles with ease. All components of Serena’s game are second to none and have shown throughout her 23 grand slam wins in singles, one less than the record of 24. Serena is an ongoing, unstoppable legend and has yet to fall victim to the younger generation.
The key word is “yet.” Serena, however, will have a tough time returning to competition because of the break she has taken to marry Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, and have a baby. No matter how much Serena has practiced over her break, it is difficult to recreate in-match intensity with the restricted mobility that comes with a pregnancy. Furthermore, with a baby on the way, not only will Serena have to shake off the rust which comes with a leave of absence, but she will also have to handle the responsibilities of having a newborn.
But, with Serena’s unnerving skill, honed game and fierce dedication there is no questioning that Serena will be back on the podium holding another grand slam trophy with her baby watching from the sidelines.
Even though the cycle of youth defeating older tennis players is almost always true, Serena is the exception. Serena will be able to defeat any young tennis protegee anytime because of the once-in-a-lifetime player she is. Serena has easily beaten both Muguruza and Sharapova in the finals of grand slams several times, and Serena will always have an exceptional game that no young tennis athlete can end.
Serena will always be known as the greatest women’s tennis athlete of all time, and even when she does retire, Serena will not wrap up her career by losing to the younger generation, but will finish her journey on her own record.
Contact Maya Ng-Yu at [email protected].