Serena Williams deserves a movie.
On Sunday, she defeated Victoria Azarenka in the 2012 U.S. Open final 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 to win her third-straight major tennis title.
Williams has been winning grand slams for so long—since 1999—that even people who don’t follow sports recognize her name. But those that haven’t paid close attention to her recent career won’t fully appreciate the Hollywood-like conclusion to her climb back to the top of the tennis world.
The Associated Press reported, following her fourth victory in the tournament, Williams said (via ESPN):
"I honestly can't believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, 'Man, she's playing so great.' I'm really shocked."
While most will shrug off Williams’ reaction to her triumph as overzealous humility, if you step back and look at the big picture of her story, her success is indeed quite shocking.
Williams failed to participate in three straight grand slam tournaments from the 2010 U.S. Open to the 2011 French Open due to physical ailments. A battle with a foot injury threatened her career and a battle with a blood clot threatened her life.
She heroically came out on top in both fights.
But the only noise she made in her return to competition was when she flipped out at the 2011 U.S. Open chair umpire. Williams’ drought without a grand slam victory lasted almost two years. After she was eliminated in the first round of this year’s French Open, it seemed as if she was officially washed up.
And then Williams cued the dramatic, comeback music.
The 30-year old shrugged off retirement talk to triumph twice in London at Wimbledon and the Summer Olympics (thrice if you count her doubles gold medal she won with her sister).
Williams has fought her way back from laughing-stock status to being the best women’s tennis player alive. The obstacles she was forced to hurdle on her return to the top—health and performance issues—truly make her last few years movie-worthy.
Steven Spielberg, I’m looking at you.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.