By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
It was impossible to read the essay that amounted to Serena Williams’ goodbye to tennis and not imagine a fitting finale, a triumphant scene at the US Open next month in which she hoists the trophy, equals the all-time Grand Slam singles record, and waltzes off into the rest of her life.
For that to happen would require a nostalgic and emotional trip for the ages, seven victories on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, as the sporting public loses its collective mind.
If Williams racks up enough wins to take her into the last weekend of the tournament, a journey filled with escalating anticipation and building in momentum all the while, it will become the story of the New York sports summer, even with Kevin Durant agitating and football season fast approaching.
It’s almost certainly not going to go down that way.
When sporting greats stick around long enough, we lose a sense of reality about what they’re capable of accomplishing. When they’ve achieved the implausible so many times before, not even the most preposterous of targets seem beyond them any longer.
You don’t need to have watched the recent movie “King Richard” to know it was a drastic leap from the established order for a pair of young Black girls from Compton, Calif. — Williams and her older sister Venus — to enter a sport synonymous with country club sheen and collect a ridiculous 30 Grand Slams singles titles between them.
Serena Williams is responsible for 23 of that tally, the first coming in a different millennium, at the 1999 US Open. She currently stands one behind Margaret Court on the all-time list, though 11 of Court’s titles came in the Australian Open, during a time when that tournament was not frequently attended by the world’s best.
It is where, barring some kind of fantastical miracle, she will remain, combined with the status of the finest women’s player of all time and a trailblazing story to go along with it.
As much as the fan base would love one more run, it is too much to ask. Williams will turn 41 next month, has been a mother for nearly five years and has a quarter-century of tennis tiredness in her legs.
She’s up against younger, fresher, fitter women, who are able to put in the kind of punishing training schedule that Williams once undertook. Not even her talent, all that knowledge and experience, and her trademark determination are enough to overcome such obstacles any longer.
On Wednesday, Williams lost 6-2, 6-4 to Belinda Bencic, the world No. 12, in the second round of the National Bank Open in Toronto. “I am terrible at goodbyes,” she told the crowd. “But goodbye, Toronto.”
A few more weeks, and it will be goodbye to tennis, permanently.
Williams is ranked No. 407 in the world, primarily because