Tera Hunter Pens NY Times Op Ed on "The Power of Serena Williams"Historians in the News
tags: Sports History, op eds, Tera Hunter, tennis
Tera W. Hunter (@TeraWHunter) is a professor of history and African-American studies at Princeton and the author of “Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century.”
Serena Williams’s legacy is sealed, whether or not she ever hits a tennis ball again. Of course it’s sad she didn’t beat Bianca Andreescu at the finals of the U.S. Open Championships and match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. But her contributions to the game are much bigger than reaching another Grand Slam final.
There is a new generation of young women who are modeling their style of play on that of Serena and her sister Venus, dominating with grit and panache. The newcomers represent various races and nationalities, but women of color have been especially inspired in a sport where finding their likeness used to be rare.
Since the mid 1990s when Serena and Venus made their debuts as professional tennis players, they have changed the way the game is played by embracing and pushing the limits of their physical prowess and mental acumen, uninhibited by the artificial limits that strictures of gender had previously imposed on women.
They have refused to be anyone but themselves, insisted on playing in their own style and by their own rules. They paced themselves for the long haul and became well-rounded people — on and off the court. They attended college and developed their own businesses, rejecting the advice of experts to adopt a single-minded approach to athletics. They outlasted the accomplished cohort they started out with, players like Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati who took a more traditional, single-minded approach to tennis.
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