At the age of 35, most tennis players are either too injured to be considered a threat or happily retired with a few children. Up until recently, it seemed unfathomable that a tennis player would have continued success late into their thirties, and especially someone like #Serena Williams.

Often criticized for lack of discipline, the younger of the Williams’ has somehow managed to turn a great career into the all-time great career in the open era. Unlike Roger Federer, Serena has had an unconventional career and still managed to stay on top. The question is how?

Serena’s lack of tournament play

One of the many criticisms of Richard Williams was his insistence that both Venus and Serena play a limited schedule of tournaments. His thought was that having players compete in so many tournaments per year would lead to burnout and overall lack of enthusiasm for the game. While most of the top women played an average of 17 tournaments per year, Serena only played 12 or 13.

That limited schedule mixed with outside interests, (modeling, acting, and fashion design) seem to have left Serena hungrier for much longer. I mean Serena even appeared in a #Beyonce music video. Comparing Serena to someone like Justine #Henin perfectly illustrates this point. Henin played consistently for most of her career and had no outside interests.

She lived tennis. She breathed tennis and by her late twenties was retired. She made a brief comeback by succumbed to injury quickly after.

There is something to the whole “slow and steady wins the race” cliché. It is also interesting to hear the same commentators (like Chris Evert) who wrote Serena off for having outside interests, now praise her for doing so.

Serena’s improved motivation and passion

Though I believe that he gets a bit too much credit, one of the best moves of Serena’s career was hiring Patrick Mouratoglou. He came at the time when Serena suffered her first ever opening round loss at a major at the French Open in 2012. As soon as these two joined forced, Serena won the Wimbledon title and shortly after, #Olympic gold.

Since turning thirty, Serena has won 10 major titles. The second highest after that is two major victories. Mouratoglou approaches tennis with a very similar mindset to Richard Williams and stresses the important of Serena dictating every single point.

Unlike earlier in Serena’s career, she is more open to the idea of reviewing table and Patrick is extremely analytical. It’s hard to gauge how good of a coach Mouratoglou is because Serena was already a champion by the time he entered the picture. However, his insistence that Serena constantly aims for records has clearly helped the younger Williams sister make a lasting mark in tennis. Serena has the chance to make even more history as she stands two major titles away from completely shutting down the greatest of all time debate. With so much to play for, it is become harder to figure out when Serena will ever retire and I for one think that is great.