Glimpse of Serena's greatness

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 AM ET

TORONTO - There was nothing historical or hysterical about the dominance of Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup, but there was something personal.

For all of us watching.

This was an opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, maybe for the last time up close. There was that moment on Sunday, once she took control of the championship final, where you could sit and wonder when next you’ll see anything like her agin.

Maybe the best women’s tennis player ever.

Maybe the most dominant female athlete ever.

Just a few feet away on centre court, right here in Toronto, at our York University. Williams was the show at a Rogers Cup almost devoid of drama and that didn’t really seem to matter after her effective and efficient straight sets demolition of Samantha Stosur at the Rexall Centre. Her business is winning, and, unlike the Argos, right now her business is just fine.

All week long, watching her find herself, struggle, battle, and eventually dominate, meant you saw almost the whole package: Who she is, who she was, who she might be again.

How often in a calendar year in this sporting city of defeat after defeat can we say we can saw an all-time great. Up close. A player for the ages, even if her age appears to fluxuate depending on the moment.

Serena claims to be turning 27 in September, which is nice, but it’s also a little white lie. She is either silly about age or in denial, or maybe she has just lost count. But Williams is turning 30 next month — a monumental age for any tennis play — even if she won’t play along.

She first won the Canadian Open a decade ago, which she wasn’t happy to be reminded about. If she’s actually the age she claims to be, she would have been 16 when she first won this tournament. But let her be whatever age she wants to be.

So long as she keeps playing.

The next time the women will play Toronto will be 2013. Then she’ll be turning 32. By 2015, she’ll be ready to turn 34. In other words, we may never see this version of Serena again, the last look at an all-time great still able to reduce a fellow finalist to bit player.

Once in a while, in this business, you pinch yourself because of what get to experience up close. The first Canadian Open I covered — I think it was called the Players’ International then — had Bjorn Borg playing John McEnroe in the final. They were athletes then, a documentary subject now.

You don’t forget seeing Borg, the way you don’t forget witnessing the best of Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan, or how Usain Bolt took your breath away in Beijing. In my only time at Wimbledon, Roger Federer was near-perfect. In the last U.S. Open I covered, Pete Sampras seemed invincible.

Any game, gender

And somewhere in the place where you store memories, you have to find a place for the younger of the Williams sisters, the one female athlete who looks like she can compete in any game with any gender.

And I figure one day, I can sit a grandchild on my lap and say: I saw the great Serena Williams play.

The way my father told me about Ted Williams. The may my uncle told me about Rocket Richard. The way my grandfather told me stories about MacKenzie King (my grandfather hated sports).

How many generational athletes are there?

In Canada, you always start with Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe and Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. In the United States, there is always talk of Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana and Peyton Manning and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Jordan.

From women’s tennis, the most competitive and athletic of all women’s sports, there has been Williams and Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

And I asked the esteemed tennis writer, Tom Tebbutt, that if Williams at her best played Navratilova at her best, or Graf at her best, who would win? He said Williams.

She is just too strong, too athletic, too competitive, and probably too mean.

The best ever. She took an otherwise ordinary Rogers Cup and made it her own, made it worth watching.

Count yourself fortunate if you got one last glimpse of a great champion up close.


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