Sports Take: Appreciate greatness while it lasts, Serena Williams’ last volley

Serena Williams, of the United States, leaves the court carrying flowers and waving to fans after her loss to Belinda Bencic, of Switzerland, during the National Bank Open tennis tournament Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

There’s no question that Serena Williams has changed the sports world forever, especially after dominating the game of tennis for almost three decades. Williams recently announced she is stepping away from the sport, sending a wave of shock through the entire world that the 2022 U.S. Open may be the last time fans get to see her compete.

This is a great reminder to never take things for granted. Many people, along with myself, fall victim to this in the sports world because we’ve grown up with consistent pieces, and it feels like they will never go away. I’ve always been able to watch LeBron James throw down a dunk or see Tom Brady hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the umpteenth time. Seeing said people age and eventually be forced to step away from the game is hard to imagine and should make all fans remember to appreciate what’s in front of them before it’s gone.

Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts after her loss to Belinda Bencic, of Switzerland, during the National Bank Open tennis tournament Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

I remember being a little kid who knew nothing about tennis, watching Williams serve at 120 mph or more and being awestruck. The 23-time Grand Slam champion knows a thing or two about success in her profession, and that trickles down a long way. The impact Williams has on the sports world is not talked about nearly enough, because even with all of the debates people have over who is the greatest athlete of all time, the four-time Olympic gold medalist is often overlooked.

The sheer dominance Williams has had with a racket in her hand is unheard of. Her accolades speak for themselves, as the Compton, Calif., native has had a profound impact on the game of tennis and for women in the sports world. Let’s not forget: Williams won her first Grand Slam at the age of 17 in 1999.

Yes, you read that correctly — just 17 years old.

Serena Williams hits a ball into the crowd during a practice session ahead of the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Think about what that does to a kid growing up. A Black woman from Compton was on the biggest stage competing and thriving before she was old enough to vote. For me, it was not only an inspiration to succeed amid adversity but also a huge deal for women who are pursuing what feels like impossible things.

Talk about girl power.

There will never be another Serena Williams — that much is clear. All things come and go, but one thing I will always try to remember is this: Don’t take greatness for granted, and cherish it before it’s taken away.