If being number one were all about heart and relentless determination to win, there'd be no contest.
If it were about being the most imposing-looking person on the court, it'd be hands-down.
If it came down to being the queen of not the backhand, but of back-handed compliments, the top women's tennis player, for all time, would be Serena
Williams has all of the above, but, alas, is missing one small thing right now: The ability to beat all comers.
At the start of the Moscow tournament, Williams put the tennis world on notice that she was ready to be number one again.
"I definitely think I'm ready for it," she said. "I'm ready to dedicate myself. I'm excited by the fact that I have so much motivation."
There's that heart and determination, but something was missing during the final of the Kremlin Cup against Elena Dementieva. Williams sprayed her shots everywhere through the match, losing 7-5, 1-6, 1-6.
"She played really unbelievable. She should try to play like that more often," Serena said after her beatdown. See what I mean about back-handed compliments? Of course, one of her best potshots would be when she was whipped by Justine Henin at the U.S. Open. "She hit some lucky shots." That after a 7-6, 6-1 drubbing. Those, Serena, are a lot of lucky shots.
The knock on Williams, beside her knack for knowing exactly the right thing to say after she loses, is that she's too much of a part-time player to be number one again. One day, she's an actress, and on another, she's a model. The next day, she's a fashion designer.
Some people hate that Serena isn't chained to tennis, but she can wake up and decide that today, she'll be a tennis champion. And then, she goes ahead and wins the Australian Open. But then, she'll lose the Moscow tournament, getting her doors blown off by someone who's never managed a set off of her before.
So Williams can't expect to be consistent playing whenever she feels like it. Why is that a problem for her critics? Does anyone fault Lindsay Davenport for deciding to start a family while pursuing a pro tennis career? Is motherhood a nobler cause than making sure you have no regrets in life?
There are worse things than being a Jane of all trades. Like, such as, being so dumb that you have probably no idea where your country is on a map, let alone the Iraq and you personally believe that you'll have to rely on your looks for the rest of your life because there are, like, no books in your house.
(Maps, dictionaries and mirrors are all sold at the dollar store.) There's the possibility of growing up under a microscope and under pressure as a tennis
prodigy, and ending up in a Florida jail cell like a teenaged Jennifer Capriati did.
If it's important for Serena Williams to be a well-rounded human being with limitless options for her life, then she's well on her way. If it's equally
important for her to be the best tennis player she can be, well, she's not on her way. She'll have to show the commitment of the Justine Henins, Dementievas and
Jelena Jankovics to beat them, and all the other comers. Williams can talk the talk, easily. Those words are empty if she can't win, or stay fit, consistently.
The ball, as they say, is in her court.