February is recognized as Black History Month. It is a time to reflect on the importance and accomplishments of African-Americans in history. Serena Jameka Williams had an opportunity to become recognized this February but failed. Unless you are new to the planet earth, you know that Serena is black and has been the best tennis player in the last 10 years. She is ranked number one in the world for women and has won 21 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era. The Open Era began in 1968 when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs. Before 1968 only amateurs were allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments. The four Grand Slam or major tournaments consist of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open. Serena trails Steffi Graf by one title in the Open Era and three behind Margaret Court overall. How did Serena fail considering the list of all-time greats she is on?
August 2015 began with Serena entering the U.S. Open as the heavy favorite to win the title. She was the reigning Grand Slam champion for the four majors. If she wins the U.S. Open, she would have won all four major tournaments and thus complete the calendar year Grand Slam. Serena started off the tournament great, only losing one match on her way to the quarterfinals. In that quarterfinal match, she faced her big sister Venus Williams. It was a classic matchup with Serena prevailing 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. Serena’s path to another title seemed imminent with only two matches to win. She would face an unranked Roberta Vinci in the semifinals. Then on September 11th the unthinkable happened, Serena lost! Vinci beat her 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. With the lost, it ended the chance of tying Steffi Graf record of 22 titles. It also meant the Australian Open wouldn’t have the luster of her breaking the record.
January 2016 would find Serena favored to win the Australian Open and tie the Open Era record. She would breeze through to the quarterfinals and face her “rival” Maria Sharapova. The word rival is loosely used because Serena has won 19 of 21 matches and 18 straight verse Sharapova. It’s only a rival because the media makes it one. After Serena dismantled her 6-4 6-1, it was on to the semifinals. She would face 4th ranked Victoria Radwanska and beat her 6-0 6-4. At this point, Serena was basically a lock to defeat 7th ranked Angelique Kerber in the finals and win her seventh Australian Open title. January 30, 2016 history was not made for Serena. It was too many unforced errors that caused her to lose the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
February 1st 2016 was supposed to be a coronation of Serena as the best tennis player ever in the Open Era. It would also be a celebration of her being the greatest black tennis player ever. However, those dreams were derailed. Serena still has three more majors this year to tie and break the record. At 34 years of age, she even has a couple years to break the all-time record. The chances of her doing that are great. For 2016 and this Black History Month it comes down to – could have, should have, would have been.