ESPN The Magazine


It’s difficult to imagine a time when Serena Williams didn’t rule fans’ hearts and minds, but the respect was hard-won. ESPN’s Howard Bryant reflects on her winding road to dominance.

WHEN IT COMES to the all-timers, it is common to assume a straight line of success and its accompanying accolades. Of course Jackie Robinson is recognized as one of the great profiles in courage. Of course Henry Aaron is revered as baseball royalty. Of course Serena Williams is accepted as the greatest tennis champion of her time.

There is a naïveté, and perhaps an unintentional insult, to this, because such a

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