Serena Williams status in the sports world and the larger global culture continues to expand, as only it can. In a new piece that debuted on his HBO show, Any Given Wednesday, sports authority Bill Simmons compares her to some of the greatest all-time boxers, including Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and to other athletic luminaries such as Larry Bird, Roger Federer and John McEnroe. He notes her dominance within her sport itself, including a 16-11 head-to-head record against sister Venus and, by a 19-2 count, a 12-years-strong ownership of Maria Sharapova match-ups.
The four-minute clip ends with Simmons' expectations of Serena late this summer:
"This summer, we need Serena's voice more than ever," Simmons says, in reference to her recent statements about race relations and gun violence toward African Americans. "She has the Rio Olympics and then the U.S. Open, two gigantic forums. The good news is that we already know what she's going to do."
In London I have to wake up to this. He was black. Shot 4 times? When will something be done- no REALLY be done?!?! pic.twitter.com/OaLn60G6nm
"At 34, she's become the Tiger Woods that we never totally got to see: A black prodigy who ruled a country-club sport without ever flaming out," Simmons says earlier in the clip. "Oh yeah, and she's also way more interesting than Tiger ever was."
In comparing her to Bird, and invoking the words of NBA titan Bill Walton to do so, Simmons also notes how Serena plays with "passion, persistence and purpose." While some of her recent major-title runs in recent times haven't exuded precision—her 2015 French Open campaign, when she battled the flu, comes to mind—her tenacity in the face of a challenge is to be treasured. And her 2016 Wimbledon onslaught proved a lesson in precision. A 6-2, 6-0 semifinal victory? That's the kind of relentless assault that Steffi Graf and Monica Seles used to bestow on their foes.
"How she transforms stuffy Wimbledon has been especially amazing," Simmons notes. "I mean, the All England Club makes Augusta look like a 2 Chainz concert." Simmons goes on from there, perhaps as only he can: "She doesn't just win, she performs."