Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Williams really brings wow factor

Serena Williams' appearance in Auckland is the climax of a four-year process of persistence. Photo / AP
Serena Williams' appearance in Auckland is the climax of a four-year process of persistence. Photo / AP

Wow. Serena Jameka Williams is going to play in Auckland.

Like one of her unstoppable aces, not many saw that coming.

Williams has filled arenas all over the globe, and in January she will be on court at our boutique tennis centre at Stanley Street.

In terms of pulling power, Williams is only upstaged in tennis by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, two immortals of the men's game. She's a bigger drawcard (and can command a greater fee) than Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka and is streets ahead of any of her female counterparts.

Serena is one of those unique athletes around the world -- think of Tiger, Le Bron, Rafa, Kobe -- immediately identifiable by their first name, from Beijing to Bogota.

She is one of the greatest players the sport has known. Her list of achievements is endless, from 22 Grand Slam singles titles to more than 770 career match wins, and a win percentage exceeding 85 per cent.

Perhaps the best measure of Williams' ability is that, for the best part of 15 years, she has been the favourite for just about every match she has been involved in. Even when coming back from injury or illness, she is expected to win. In some ways, it is her losses that define her because they are so rare, just six defeats in 28 Grand Slam finals.

Williams won her first Grand Slam in 1999, when Jenny Shipley was Prime Minister, Bill Clinton was in the second term of his presidency, John Key was an unknown currency trader and Richie McCaw had just finished high school. Yet the 35-year-old Williams is still going strong, reaching three Grand Slam finals (winning Wimbledon) in 2016.

She has been an amazing athlete, and it's an amazing feat to get her here. The buzz yesterday was tangible, as I overheard a colleague, who admitted to not being into tennis "or really even sport" saying he would love to see her play. Most of the remaining corporate boxes were snapped up within minutes of yesterday's announcement and good luck trying to get a ticket for the sessions Williams is playing.

She will be one of the greatest sportspeople to visit their shores. We have had a few down the years, but have we have any as good as Williams and still in their prime? Only Tiger Woods comes to mind and his flame has long since burned out.

- NZ Herald

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