The greatest sportswoman of all time should pay heed to singer Gladys Knight, one of the many celebrity spectators in this week’s New York courtside crowd: “Baby Don’t Change Your Mind”.
Asked after her US Open third round defeat if she might reconsider her retirement plan, Serena Williams said: “I don’t think so. I always did love Australia, though.”
Okay, leave the door open, never say never and all that.
But Williams, 41 this month, would be well advised to stick her guns and not risk tarnishing her legacy with one more half-baked attempt in Melbourne next January to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
It can’t be done, popping into a Grand Slam with near-zero preparation and winning seven matches against the world’s best.
It is testament to her brilliance, her power and her fight that she beat two opponents this week, including the second seed Anett Kontaveit.
The fight was still there as she bowed out, saving five match points before her final defeat was confirmed.
But she has the rest of her life to live.
Four times a Grand Slam finalist as a mother, she wants a second child.
She has her fashion ventures, a charity in the name of her murdered half-sister Yetunde, a new investment company, and a desire to keep working in the sport she bestrode as a colossus for more than two decades.
Never mind the stats. Margaret Court won more titles, but 11 were in Melbourne in the days when the Australian Open was a much lesser tournament.
Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova were world stars who achieved off the court as well as on.
No sport has produced someone like Serena
But there has been no one like Serena, not in any sport.
Her appearance, her power, her approach – all were unlike anything we had seen before.
Coached and driven on by her parents in their different ways, she, with her elder sister Venus, emerged from the wrong side of the tracks in Compton, Los Angeles to change the way women played tennis.
Hitting the ball harder than some men, Serena married her athleticism to balance, touch, courtcraft and grace.
How many more titles might she have won, without her myriad projects outside tennis, not to mention serious injury and health problems?
She transcended sport, to become one of that handful of individuals who can be identified by their Christian name alone.
Serena swept aside convention, broke down barriers, changed perceptions.
In the interview room she could be prickly and difficult, but on other occasions accommodating and funny.
She loves her music – including Gladys Knight as it happens – and she left the court for (probably) the last time to Tina Turner’s “The Best”.