At times, it just doesn’t seem fair. That is how good Serena Williams is. At her best, she is a superhuman cyborg — the Tennis Terminator — beaming across the court, pulverizing shots that leave vapor trails, and leaving mere-mortal opponents pooled in a puddle of hopelessness.
When not at her best, Serena just wins, as she did 6-2, 6-0 on Saturday for her record eighth Miami Open championship amid the breezes and palms of Key Biscayne.
Williams played perfunctorily, as if she knew her B-game would be plenty. No matter. It was. The near-sellout crowd at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park clearly was pro-Serena yet trying to will a competitive match. No shot. It wasn’t.
Poor Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain had roughly the same chance a snowball would have had if placed on the purple hardcourt baking under a midday Miami sun. The match took all of 56 minutes.
There were two points in a row late in the first set that illustrated Williams’ power and touch: the first a forehand that might have broken the sound barrier, the next a backhand drop-shot that left Navarro with her hands on her hips and head cocked, like, “Really?”
Williams raised both arms in a victory V as she basked in the applause at match point, then lowered her racket and kept her left arm up, topped by a raised index finger: No. 1.
She has been that for 110 consecutive weeks now on the WTA Tour. Navarro is highly ranked at No. 12, but such is the gulf between Serena and everyone else. Williams’ biggest challenger should be No. 2 Maria Sharapova, except that Serena had beaten her faux rival 16 times in a row, one the hammer in the relationship, the other the nail.
Men’s tennis has its Big Four: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray (the first and last of those meeting Sunday for the Miami men’s crown).
Women’s tennis has its Big One. Pronounce it Big Won.
“I like to believe the older I get, the better I get,” Serena said Saturday.
And why not? She is 33, playing like 23. All you can still see is prime, not decline, although Serena joked about her career clock when asked if she thought she could win four more Miami Opens.
“I hope not!” she said. “I would be how old?”
Her 19th career major, the Australian Open, came two months ago, moving her one past legendary rivals Martina Navratilova (who attended Saturday’s match) and Chris Evert. What’s next is clear cut.
Helen Wills Moody also won 19 majors, from 1923 to ’38. After that comes the 22 Steffi Graf won (1987-99). Then, all that will remain for Serena to surpass will be the 24 majors Margaret Court won (1960-73).
Tiger Woods might now be a long-shot to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record for golf majors, but I’d put Williams at even odds — maybe better — to surpass Court.
“She’s writing history,” as fellow player Ana Ivanovic put it.
Added Simona Halep, whom Serena beat in the semifinals: “I respect her since I was a little girl and so much more now that, after all this time, she is still number one.”
Key Biscayne is her home tournament (she lives in Palm Beach Gardens), and it helped introduce her and her sister to the world in the late 1990s. I recall the spectacle. The Williams girls were a novelty then: Two black sisters who learned the game on weedy, cracked courts in tough Compton, California, in the tow of their eccentric father, Richard.
There was no reason to think then that Venus would go on to have an excellent career and that Serena would be even bigger and better and soar higher.
“Never thought I’d be doing this so long,” Serena said. “But I love it more than ever.”
On Saturday, following her 62nd career WTA singles title, Serena dedicated the victory to her father, who is ill and did not attend.
“I love you daddy,” she said in her post-match remarks.
The Miami Open is a South Florida treasure, wrapping up its 31st edition. The annual fortnight, the sport’s “fifth major,” drew some 300,000 fans this year. The drive east across the Rickenbacker Causeway — a kaleidoscope of surfers, sun, sailboats and skyline — is a dreamy postcard, a tourism official’s daydream.
The treasure within the treasure is Serena Williams.
She can be off-putting at times; not all of the tennis media members who know her best like the woman as much as they love her game.
But the talent and dominance must be respected. Her autobiography and the history of women’s tennis increasingly are intertwining pages.
She has a matter-of-fact way of speaking that can come off like bragging, but the truth is always her best defense. As when she said: “Without pontificating, it’s difficult to beat me.”
Carla Suarez Navarro was reminded Saturday.
By now, they all know it too well.