When Serena Williams wants to play, there is not another woman on the planet who can beat her. She will go down in history as one of the four or five greatest female athletes to ever walk the face of the earth, and still, somehow, she could have been better.
It must be so hard to stay focused when you are so clearly better than your competition. Williams eventually got herself focused enough this year to win gold medals in singles and with her sister, Venus, in doubles.
In doubles, the Williams sisters didn't drop a set en route to gold. In singles, Serena proved to be the most dominant force a tennis court has possibly ever seen.
She won her first match, 6-3, 6-1, her second, 6-2, 6-3, her third over Vera Zvonareva, 6-1, 6-0, her quarterfinal over Caroline Wozniacki, 6-0, 6-3, her semifinal over Victoria Azarenka—the No. 1 player in the world—6-1, 6-2, before winning the finals over Maria Sharapova—the world's No. 2—6-0, 6-1.
Williams didn't just dominate at the Olympics, either. In one of the few women's sports where the average fan cares more than just two weeks every four years, Williams won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, the 14th and 15th majors of her career. Just for the hell of it, Williams also won the Wimbledon doubles title.
Oh, and for good measure, Williams also won the WTA Championships in Istanbul, beating Sharapova again in the finals.
After losing in the first round of the French Open in May, Williams lost just one more match all year, winning 31, including five titles.
When she wakes up and wants to play, keeps all the nonsense and distractions at a minimum and stops acting with a petulance unbefitting of a champion on the court, she is a talent unlike anything American sports has quite possibly ever seen. Certainly in 2012, Serena was the best.