A stunner of an ode to Serena, who came into the game on the heels of her older sister, but leaves it having changed it irrevocably. An exacting portrait of an unprecedented competitor.

Part of Serena’s genius—competitively, personally—is that she never can quite be anything but herself when she’s desperate. And she’s desperate every time she steps foot on a court. But another more conscious part of her genius is that she showed no shame in this, or any other segment of her being that she could not control. She sidestepped the trap, the one that predates her, Dr. Johnson, tennis itself. The American dilemma. Serena’s refusal to couch herself, to fit what the game was in order to be what the game is, recalls all the ancestors—breathing and not—who eyed down worlds meant to twist them and derived freedom from the revelation that there were places they could not be bent.