Fighting at 40: Older fans fall in love with Serena’s success

NEW YORK (AP) — Imagine being able to bottle a potion called “Just Serena.”

It was Serena Williams’ succinct, smiling account — almost 41 years old and the match rusting — about how she defeated the world’s No. 2 player and advanced to the third round of the US Open on Wednesday. So far it doesn’t feel like a breakup. “I’m just Serena” she said to her enthusiastic fans.

Obviously, there is only one Serena. But as superhuman as many found her accomplishment, it was a very human and relatable point in Williams’ latest run, especially for some middle-aged and older fans. The idea is that they, too, can perform better than once thought through fitness, practice, and grit.

On Thursday, a day after Williams beat 26-year-old Annette, lifelong tennis enthusiast Beth Brodsky Goldstein, 63, who was attending the Open Championship said, “I’m happy with what I’m still doing at my age. I am,” he said. contact bait.

Goldstein pursues her passion for sports more enthusiastically than most women her age. She plays several times a week and is part of England’s USTA Mixed Doubles League. (She also plays competitive golf.)

But Goldstein, like other athletes, has struggled with her share of pain and injuries, like a recent knee problem that set her back for weeks. , injuries, or, in Williams’ case, a life-threatening birth experience five years ago shows she can overcome. It gives me inspiration.

Evelyn David also watched tennis at the British Open on Thursdayand she was also thinking about the previous night.

“Everybody was like, ‘Wow!’ She cited Williams’ playing physical prowess and the role fitness plays in tennis today. . “She said, ‘I’m not down. I can get to the ball.

“Complete inspiration,” David said of Williams’ performance.

“Can you foresee anything here?” former champion and ESPN commentator Chris Evert said during the broadcast Wednesday.

Ebert retired in 1989 at the age of 34, long before fitness and nutrition became an important part of tennis today. Not so much when pioneer player Billie Jean King, now 78, was in his prime.

In an interview about Williams on Thursday, King said, “For us seniors, it’s hopeful and it’s fun. pointed out how fitness on tour changed from the 1970s to the 1970s.

“We didn’t have the information, we didn’t have the money,” King said. “Now, when people win tournaments, they say, ‘Thank you to my team.’ They’re so lucky. They didn’t even have a coach.”

Eighth-seeded Jessica Pegula, who won Thursday, is half a century younger than King at 28. She knows the difference fitness has made.

“That was a big part of it,” she said. I used to have a Coke on the line, I had a beer after the game, and now my health is my number one priority, whether it’s physical or mental.”She said Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal says he remembers thinking Williams would retire, but ‘they kept pushing the boundaries’.

Federer, 41, has not played since last year’s Wimbledon because of surgery on his right knee, but said he will try to play at Wimbledon next year as he approaches his 42nd birthday. And his 36-year-old Nadal, known for his fierce dedication to fitness, won two Grand Slam titles this year, taking his 22nd in total to a men’s record. In contrast, Jimmy Connors’ reaching the semi-finals of the US Open in 1991 at his age of 39 was considered a historic event.

Of course, fitness is just one ingredient to greatness — in any sport. Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons, 28, who likes Pegula, said while it was exciting to see Williams maintaining an athletic advantage as part of his preparation, he said, It’s not like it’s Serena and Venus Williams. It’s still cool to know that there are some things that have helped her so much in her longevity…career.”

Dr. Michael J. Joyner, who studies human performance at the Mayo Clinic, says Williams shares many traits with other superstar athletes (from baseball’s Ted Williams to golfer Gary Player, star to quarterback Tom Brady (notorious for not retiring at 45). ) Someone who enjoys a long career.

“What you see in all these people is that they have stayed motivated, avoided a devastating injury or recovered so they could come back,” he said. Also importantly, they are living in the “modern age of sports medicine.”

He asked if Williams could perform at the same level every other day and win the entire tournament. he hopes so

Jamie Martin, a Williams fan who has been in physical therapy since 1985 and owns a series of clinics in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says many women become active and competitive in middle age and beyond. Some people return to a sport or start a new sport after years of devoting themselves to work and family.

Williams chasing another U.S. Open title at 40 is a reminder that women can now not only stay competitive longer, but compete for the pleasure of it, she said. point out.

“She really enjoys playing,” Martin, 59, said.

Brooklyn teacher Mweji Pugh says both Williams sisters are great examples of living on their own terms, including deciding when they want to play.

“They are still following their own strategy,” said Pugh, 51. “I don’t like that word. I think it’s more evolution. ‘Are you ready to retire, Venus?’ ‘Not today.’

“The older you get, the more you should be able to set up your life the way you like it and the way that works best for you,” Pugh said. “That’s what sisters do, they teach us all a lesson.”


Associated Press reporters Mary-Claire Dale, Howard Fendrich, and Ernie Stapleton contributed to this report.


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