Serena Williams’ US Open run inspiring people of all ages

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FILE - Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, right, cheer on the competition during Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, the kick off to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Aug. 24, 2013, in New York. Some older fans in particular — middle-aged, or beyond — said they saw in Williams’ latest run at the 2022 U.S. Open a very human and relatable takeaway. Namely the idea that they, also, could perform better and longer than they once thought possible — through fitness, practice and grit. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

FILE – Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, proper, cheer on the competitors throughout Arthur Ashe Youngsters’ Day, the kick off to the U.S. Open tennis match, Aug. 24, 2013, in New York. Some older followers particularly — middle-aged, or past — stated they noticed in Williams’ newest run on the 2022 U.S. Open a really human and relatable takeaway. Specifically the concept they, additionally, might carry out higher and longer than they as soon as thought doable — by way of health, follow and grit. (Picture by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Think about if they may bottle a potion referred to as “Just Serena.”

That was Serena Williams’ succinct, smiling clarification for a way she’d managed — at almost 41, and match-rusty — to defeat the world’s second-ranked participant and advance Wednesday to the third spherical of a U.S. Open that up to now, doesn’t really feel very like a farewell. “I’m just Serena,” she stated, to roaring followers.

Clearly there’s just one Serena. However as superhuman as many discovered her achievement, some older followers particularly — middle-aged, or past — stated they noticed in Williams’ newest run a really human and relatable takeaway, too. Specifically the concept they, additionally, might carry out higher and longer than they as soon as thought doable — by way of health, follow and grit.

“It makes me feel good about what I’m doing still at my age,” stated Bess Brodsky Goldstein, 63, a lifelong tennis fanatic who was attending the Open on Thursday, the day after Williams’ conquer 26-year-old Anett Kontaveit.

Goldstein pursues her ardour for the game extra vigorously than most girls her age. She performs a number of instances every week and participates in an age 55-and-up USTA mixed-doubles league in New England. (She additionally performs aggressive golf.)

But Goldstein, like every athlete, suffers her share of aches and accidents, like a current knee difficulty that set her again just a few weeks. Watching Williams, she stated, reveals atypical of us that accidents — or, in Williams’ case, a life-threatening childbirth expertise 5 years in the past — will be overcome. “She gives you inspiration that you can achieve your best, even in your early 60s,” said Goldstein, who also had high praise for Venus Williams, Serena’s older sister, competing this year at 42.

Evelyn David was also watching tennis at the Open on Thursday, And she, too, was thinking about the night before.

“Everybody is going, ‘WHOA!’” stated David, who smilingly gave her age as “older than my 60s” and is the site director for New York Junior Tennis Learning, which works with children and teens. She cited the physicality of Williams’ play, and the role of fitness in today’s tennis. “The rigorous training that athletes go through now is different,” David said. “She’s going, ‘I’m not falling over. I can get to the ball.’”

“A total inspiration,” David termed Williams’ efficiency — and she or he had some outstanding firm.

“Can I put something in perspective here?” former champion and ESPN commentator Chris Evert stated throughout Wednesday’s broadcast. “This is a 40-year-old mother. It is blowing me away.”

Evert retired at age 34 in 1989, well before fitness and nutrition were the prominent factors in tennis they are now. They were even less so when pioneering player Billie Jean King, now 78, was in her heyday.

“For us older ones, it gives us hope and it’s fun,” King stated Thursday in an interview about Williams. “Places a pep in your step. Provides you power.” She famous how health on the tour has modified for the reason that Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies.

“We didn’t have the information and we didn’t have the Money,” King stated. “When people win a tournament now, they say, ‘Thank you to my team.’ They’re so lucky to have all those people. We didn’t even have a coach.”

Jessica Pegula, the No. 8 seed who gained on Thursday, is at 28 a half-century youthful than King. She is aware of effectively the distinction health has made.

“It’s been a huge part of it,” she stated. “Athletes, how they take care of their bodies, sports nutrition, the science behind training and nutrition — (it) has changed so much. Back in the day, you saw a player drinking a Coke on the sideline or they had a beer after their match. Now … health has been the No. 1 priority, whether it’s physical or mental.” She stated she remembered considering Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Williams have been all going to retire, however “they kept pushing the boundaries.”

Federer, 41, hasn’t performed since Wimbledon final yr due to operations to his proper knee, however has stated he’ll attempt to play Wimbledon subsequent yr, shortly earlier than his forty second birthday. And Nadal, 36, identified for his intense devotion to health, has gained two Grand Slam titles this yr to boost his complete to a males’s-record 22. No one can be shocked if he gained one other main. In distinction, Jimmy Connors’ well-known run to the 1991 semis of the U.S. Open when he was 39 was thought-about an occasion for the historical past books.

Within the girls’s sport, a longtime pioneer for health was Martina Navratilova, who gained her remaining Grand Slam title, the 2006 U.S. Open combined doubles, at age 49.

In fact, health is just one constructing block to greatness — in any sport. Denver Broncos security Justin Simmons, who like Pegula is 28, famous that though it is inspiring to see Williams maintain an athletic benefit partly by way of preparation, “not everybody is Serena and Venus Williams. Maybe there’s some genes in there that not everybody else is blessed enough to have, but it’s still cool to know that, hey, even though she is genetically gifted, there are some things that she’s done that have helped her in a tremendous way prolong her career.”

Dr. Michael J. Joyner, who research human efficiency on the Mayo Clinic, stated Williams shares many traits with different famous person athletes together with star quarterback Tom Brady (45 and famously un-retired ) who’ve loved lengthy careers.

“What you see with all of these people is they stay motivated, they’ve avoided catastrophic injury … or they’ve been able to come back because they’ve recovered,” he stated. Additionally key: They reside in “the modern era of sports medicine.”

The question, he asked, is can Williams perform at the same level every other day to win a whole tournament? He hopes so.

Williams fan Jamie Martin, who has worked in physical therapy since 1985 and owns a chain of clinics in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said she’s seeing many women playing vigorous, competitive sports into middle age and beyond. Some return to their sport, or take up a new one, after years of focusing on work or family.

Williams’ pursuit of another U.S. Open title at 40 is a reminder that women can not only remain competitive longer, but can compete now for the joy of it, she notes.

“She’s really enjoying playing,” said Martin, 59. “That’s what’s fun to watch about it now.”

Brooklyn teacher Mwezi Pugh says both Williams sisters are great examples of living life on their own terms – which includes deciding how long they want to play.

“They are still following their own playbook,” said Pugh, 51. “‘Are you ready to retire yet, Serena?’ ‘I don’t like that word. I would rather say evolution.’ ‘Are you ready to retire, Venus?’ ‘Not today.’”

“The older you are, the more you should be able to set up your life in the way you like, and what works best for you,” Pugh said. “That’s what the sisters are doing, and they are teaching all of us a lesson.”


Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale, Howard Fendrich and Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.


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This story was originally published September 1, 2022 11:45 PM.

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