She's the best, and then players come, go, retire, burn out, have babies, come back, grow up, get hurt, recover, get old. New players come in and go down their paths.
And Serena Williams? Still on top. You reshuffle a deck of cards a few hundred times and the same card always comes out on top.
Well, this is no trick. Williams won Wimbledon again Saturday, beating Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2 for her fourth title here. It was her 13th major title overall, passing Billie Jean King into sixth place on the all-time list.
This was a blowout, as expected. The truth is, Williams had this tournament won for a week, since she beat Maria Sharapova, the only player who made her break a sweat.
Williams is 28, a dicey age in tennis, but this was her easiest major ever. It's hard to imagine who can beat her now, and how many majors she can win.
Also, how long will she play? Could she still be here at 38?
"If I am,'' she said, "I want you to personally take me off and escort me off the court. There no way I need to be out here at 38.''
This entire second week of Wimbledon was almost a ceremonial thing for Williams, the outcome was so inevitable. A one-sided final is not a thrilling thing, but if it involves Williams, the most divisive player in tennis, then it evokes passion either way.
So that works for tennis.
She has won back-to-back Wimbledons now, and someone asked how that compares with the Lakers winning back-to-back NBA titles.
"Oh, please,'' she said. "The Lakers was so much better than mine. They went seven (games) ... They went the whole stretch.''
For Williams, this was just stretch and yawn.
Somehow, drama follows her, though. During the first week, the queen visited Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years. Williams was excited in anticipation, and talked about practicing her curtsy. Then she placed out on Court 2, an insult that had to embarrass Williams.
Centre Court, of course, is where the queen would be. Williams, after all these years, deserved the honor of being there for the special moment.
It was a huge mistake for tennis, and we can only hope it was an accident. The All England Club is so steeped in tennis tradition, but tennis tradition is so steeped in exclusion and racial hard feelings.
Amazing that no one saw how that would look.
Gatorade saw it, and has already put out a commercial. It's in black-and-white, looking like an old fashioned Wimbledon event while a white player and white fans play and watch an old, elegant game.
Williams, the only black person in the ad, crushes power shots, shocking her opponent.
Williams not only made the most of the snub over the Queen, but also covered tennis' rear end on it. After her match that day, she signed autographs for a bunch of kids who normally wouldn't have the expensive Centre Court tickets.
Of course, there was nowhere to put her for the final other than Centre Court, where she and her sister Venus have combined to win nine of the past 11 Wimbledons.
So the biggest star in women's tennis wins the biggest match with the biggest spotlight.
And what that hides is this: Women's tennis is suddenly an absolute mess.
Venus is starting to get old. Justine Henin's comeback is not working as well as expected, and now she's out for months with an injured wrist.
"It's not that I have that much longer left,'' she said. "We want to have more children and everything.''
That leaves only Sharapova, who is starting to play like a star again.
Look for her to move back into the top five soon, if her surgically repaired shoulder holds up.
So the women's tour points to its great depth now, noting Zvonareva's rise. To me, that's code for: We don't have stars.
But you can't sell depth. And this wasn't about new players moving up, anyway. It was about the tier just below Williams falling off.
Meanwhile, the other pitch in women's tennis is about how well the older players are doing. Code: No one else is coming.
Never mind, Williams cleans it all up.
Zvonareva got to 3-all in the first set. It was like a boxer surviving the first two rounds before the knockout everyone knows is coming.
Serving at 3-4, she buckled, double-faulting. And on break point, Williams ran down a shot, crushed a forehand pass down the line, dropped to one knee, pumped her fist and screamed.
Zvonareva never threatened again.
Williams is five major titles behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who don't hold the record -- Margaret Court does with 24 -- but are still the benchmark for Williams to get into the argument about best-player ever.
The question is how much longer she will still be there, on top.
Williams credits her longevity to holding outside interests, not being one-dimensional. She has played just six tournaments all year.
"My thing is, I love my dogs. I love my family. I love going to the movies,'' she said. "I love reading. I love going shopping. Like, it's not on my list to be, you know, this (historical tennis figure).''
Well, it's happening anyway.
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