Women's tennis needs Serena Williams much more than Serena Williams needs women's tennis.
Nearly two million of her followers on Twitter would agree, and confirmed as much when she recently suffered from a hemotoma as a result of a pulmonary embolism.
There are suggestions Serena could return in time to defend her Wimbledon crown, but I just want to see her back on the court, whenever that is. In my opinion, Serena and big sister Venus have done more for tennis than any woman since Billie Jean King.
Serena transcends her sport.
She is one of the most photographed personalities in the world. In fashion, entertainment, writing, philanthropy, sports management, even as part owner of the Miami Dolphins, she is recognized in every corner of society.
But what makes Serena stand out is the fact that, first and foremost, she is a winner. She would not have so many successful projects outside of tennis if she didn't dominate on the court first. With 27 Grand Slam titles and a 199-30 record in majors, Serena has owned the sport over the past 12 years.
I have been quite critical of Serena because of her lack of participation on the WTA Tour. It's not until recently that I've recognized that it's just because I really want to see her play.
When the younger of the two Williams sisters steps on the tennis court, she is virtually unstoppable. The last time she competed, Serena finished the Wimbledon final by hoisting the Venus Rosewater Dish at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Don't get me wrong, I love watching other tennis players work their craft. But when Serena enters a stadium, it's a different dynamic, something special.
I can appreciate what today's tennis stars are trying to do for the women's game, both on and off the court. But their impact just isn't the same. We've witnessed the rise of Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, who both had quick trips to the top of the rankings only to falter soon afterwards. Kim Clijsters has been victorious in her return, but she's just too darn wholesome. Same for Caroline Wozniacki.
We have all seen a different side of Serena. She can be mercurial — it's almost frightening when she's angry, like watching Dr. Jekyll transform into Mr. Hyde — and she is no stranger to controversy. There have been passive-aggressive media conferences, that interesting display of sportsmanship at the 2009 U.S. Open semifinal against Clijsters, and the decision [with Venus] to boycott Indian Wells for the past decade over some racist fans one year.
However, I've also witnessed the other Serena.
Every time I have personally dealt with her for events in Toronto, or when I interviewed her on my radio show, she has been cordial — appreciative of the opportunity and just fantastic to speak with. So despite being hard on her and Venus for hand-picking tournaments (it has hurt the game), I have to say I've found Serena always quite pleasant.
Besides, in a world full of typically nice tennis women or immature teenagers trying to be the next "one," Serena is refreshingly real.
Before her Hall of Fame career comes to a close — and it won't be much longer for either sister — I really hope we can see a healthy Serena completely dominate a full calendar year.
She doesn't necessarily need it, but the sport sure does.