This spring, Serena Williams’ tennis career was at a crossroads. She had not competed since June 2021, when she withdrew due to an injury in her first round match at Wimbledon. But now she felt the court calling.
She knew who to turn to for advice: Tiger Woods.
Williams wrote in first person essay for Vogue magazine Last month.
It’s a surreal conversation imaginable: Woods and Williams, a talking shop. But it makes sense in the world. Who can best deal with the struggle of the other? Their stories are very similar: prodigies from Southern California who made their way from humble beginnings into the enclosed world of country club sports. Woods was raised in Money County, Los Angeles and Orange County. Williams in the Compton City Courts. Their career flourished in parallel; Williams turned pro in 1995 and Woods followed suit in 1996. By the turn of the millennium, both were major championship winners and the face of their own sport.
They would know each other after that. They were both on the verge of getting huge paychecks from Nike, after all, and they were going to run in the same circles of sports celebrities. Perhaps they can relate more now, as they battle parallel battles against age, torque, and the passage of time.
Woods knows his way back, and he tells Williams something stuck with her.
“He said, Serena, what if you just give her two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out to the field every day for two weeks and give your all to see what happens.”
I waited another month before following his advice, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how good she felt.
“It felt magical to pick up a racket again,” she wrote.
It was fitting that Woods was in attendance on Wednesday night as America played Williams in the second round at the US Open, where she faced off as an underdog against world number two Annette Kontaveit. And even though he was far from the only celebrity in attendance – I think Anna Wintour, Zendaya, Spike Lee, Seal, Bella and Gigi Hadid – his presence was distinctly different. Different because of the similarities between their careers (Williams won her first US Open in 1999; Woods took her title in 2000, the rest was history) and different because he was clearly so invested in the outcome.
How cool was it to see Woods running so hard in the stands? He and his girlfriend Erica Hermann in Williams’ box sat next to Serena’s sister Venus, and as the television cameras made their way, without fail, Woods seemed locked in every shot. Not sipping cocktails or checking the phone. It was at this moment. He was fully invested. He flipped his hat at Stanford back at one point, which is a sure sign that it’s time to play. Time and time again he jumps to his feet past a pivot point, releasing the kind of fist-pumps we associate with the strokes made into his main strokes.
There is something special about seeing Woods so invested as a fan because so many fans have invested in Woods. It’s a validation: if he’s fully invested in someone else’s competition, sports fans have permission to fully invest in his competition. Woods has always admired athletic greatness, and he loves the US Open in particular. We saw him and his son Charlie wearing identical fist pumps in 2019 when Watch Williams and Rafa Nadal On successive nights. merchant Texts with Roger Federer When the two were on parallel major tracks. he is The Honorable Kobe Bryant. And he still speaks respectfully of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the two giants who built a platform for his greatness. In the era of LIV vs. issues.
As for his support? This was important to Williams, too. She won the first set in a tiebreak but lost the second set 6-2, setting the stage for the pivotal third set. She turned back the clock and made her way to a 6-2 win, making it official: The comeback was still going.
We don’t know when we’ll see Williams play next. We don’t even know we’re going to do it – not really. I deliberately avoided the word “retirement”. I preferred “evolution” instead. There is some overlap between her approach and that of Woods, who admitted he would try to play only a limited schedule moving forward. Age makes us all realistic.
After her inspiring win, Woods walked with Williams through the tunnel, raising his arm over her shoulder. She recalled his presence in the media available to her after the match.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m here and one of the main reasons I still play,” she told reporters. “We talked a lot. He was really trying to motivate me. There are a few people out there, but we were like, ‘Well, we can do this together, you know?'”
There was a two word phrase that came out of Williams Vogue magazine article. “It’s a tiger,” I wrote.
There is a lot wrapped in it. Greatness, work ethic, the tenth factor. It evokes a library of highlights. It has a soul. It needs no explanation. It is a tiger. Game recognition game.
After Williams finished her win, she was interviewed in court. Did she surprise herself? After all, she ranked outside the top 400 in the world and she defeated the world number two. I shot the interviewer with a look that says it all. surprised? barely.
She added an explanation of her own. We know what that means.
The author (cautiously) welcomes your feedback at email@example.com.