Watching Serena Williams

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She’s the best, okay? The best of all time. Serena Williams doesn’t make it look easy. She makes it look brutal. It’s fucking awesome. She destroys people. You already know this.

Caroline Wozniacki, her friend, played well in Sunday’s U.S. Open final, a final Serena won for the third consecutive year. If that is hard to believe in looking at the line score, because Woz won a total of six games, know that it is true. She had rallies with Williams on Sunday afternoon that almost no woman in the history of Earth could dream of having. In the end, she was still little more than roadkill, and that has everything to do with Serena and cruelly little to do with Wozniacki.

The stadium was quiet, because how do you celebrate a brutal fait accompli? Early during the match, a group of young men began a “Sweet Caroline” chant, their second pro-Woz effort of the day, but by the match was already aging by their final “so good.” Joe Jonas had come to Flushing to sing “God Bless America” for nothing more than ritual sacrifice, it turned out.

Before I left, I told my wife that I’d be back about an hour and a half after the match ended, as I figured the match would take about an hour. I was wrong: it took an hour and fifteen minutes, because Serena blew two service games in the first set out of carelessness -- a first set she still won 6-3.

When Serena wins the first set, it is a sign that all is right in the world, or at least that all is more or less the same as it’s been for some time, and that all will be right for the next hour-plus. When she is there, she is there in total; when she is there in total, she rips at the fabric of the sport from the inside. If it seems like it can’t hold her, it’s because it can’t.

It was dominant and of faint historical significance and, in some ways, a non-event. Is total destruction an event or just a fact? There were no points that belonged to Wozniacki, just points that Serena didn’t own completely. It has been this way for so long that it seems impossible that we are even close to acceptably reverent of what we are seeing; what Serena does feels so much less significant than it is, because it looks and seems and to all appearances is so much easier than it is.

It is total domination, and it is no more or less interesting to watch because it comes from Serena than it would be from anyone else. Who will re-watch these massacres? No one, probably. They will all blend together, one extremely condensed block of excellence. What would they tell you that you wouldn’t get in five minutes? The only moment to remember is the final celebration, and the 18 of those mostly run together by now.

If it’s easy to forget, it’s also worth the reminding: Williams is one the best athletes alive, forever clowning those strong enough to get to step to her, and it seems like we’re nowhere close to the end of watching her do this. If you need a reminder of how long tennis careers can last, know that Martina Hingis played matches in Queens this year. We’re not anywhere near the end of Serena’s reign, and she’s already 18 Grand Slam Singles titles deep. Numbers add up, but we should try to do more than just count them. This is, after all, the sport of love.

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