Serena Williams: From reigning the court to leaving tennis as a winner

One of the most prolific sports personalities in the 21st century, Serena Williams hinted at her decision to move on from professional tennis in a first-person essay for Vogue earlier in August. Serena dislikes the term "retirement," preferring to refer to it as an "evolution," as she explains in her essay.

Serena Williams is believed to have made her last professional tennis appearance against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic on September 2, 2022, in the third round of the US Open and brought the curtain to her 27-year long illustrious career. Serena Williams' legacy as a tennis player is discussed in this article.

Serena Williams' early life and family

Born on September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan, Serena Williams is the youngest of two daughters of Oracene Price and Richard Williams. Serena’s oldest sister, Venus, was a renowned tennis player.

The Williams family moved to California when their children were young. Serena began playing tennis when she was four years old. Serena and her family moved to Florida when she was nine so that she could attend the tennis academy run by Rick Macci. However, in 1995, Richard pulled his daughters out of Rick Macci's academy, and in the same year, Serena became a pro tennis player.

Richard Williams has been his daughter's official coach all through their career. Her mother, Oracene Price, also guided her two daughters in the initial years of their careers. Aside from them, French tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou worked briefly with Serena from 2012 to 2022.

Serena Williams married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on November 16, 2017 in New Orleans. Two months earlier, in September, Serena gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, who is commonly known as "Olympia".

Serena’s Tennis Career at a Glance

Serena Williams is considered one of the most decorated players in both men's and women's tennis in the open era. Her 23 grand slam titles, most in the open era and the second-most of all-time, speak for themselves. Serena had to wait four years to win her first Grand Slam women’s singles event after making her professional tennis debut at the Bell Challenge in Quebec in October, 1995.

Her first singles Grand Slam victory came at the US Open in 1999. In the following year, 2000, she won her first Olympic gold medal in the singles event. The next decade, the tennis world saw a complete domination by the William sisters, especially the younger one—Serena. Perhaps her greatest rivalry was against her sister, Venus Williams, with whom she also shared tremendous success in doubles events.

At one point, the Serena-Venus pair was untouchable. Together they won 22 women’s doubles titles, which included 14 Grand Slam Women’s Doubles and three Summer Olympics Doubles titles. They were dominant, especially at Wimbledon, where they won six doubles matches. Their Olympic Doubles came in Sydney in 2000, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Serena, on the other hand, always maintained dominance over Venus.

Serena Williams tennis career

Serena Williams (Photo: AP)

Overall, Serena leads with a 19-12 record over Venus. Serena and Venus have met in the singles Grand Slam finals nine times, with Serena winning seven of them.

A notable number of rivalries have emerged during Serena’s more than two-decade long professional tennis career. Against all of them, she has a better record. A few notable ones are: Martina Hingis (Serena leads 7-6), Jennifer Capriati (Serena leads 10-7), Justine Henin (Serena leads 8-6), Victoria Azarenka (Serena leads 18-5) and Maria Sharapova (Serena leads 20-2).

Perhaps the record against Russian tennis sensation Maria Sharapova is the most surprising one. Sharapova has five Grand Slam singles titles and was one of the leading players in women’s tennis. However, it seemed like Serena had no problem facing Sharapova on the court. She has 20 wins over Sharapova and has lost only twice when they met each other in singles.

Overall, Serena Williams has 73 Women’s Singles titles to her name, including 23 Grand Slam Singles and 3 Olympic Gold Medals. Serena won her Olympic singles titles in Sydney in 2000, Beijing in 2008, and London in 2012. Serena won the majority of her Grand Slam Singles titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

Serena was the reigning champion of all major events at the same time twice in her career. The first time she achieved it was in 2003 when she won her first-ever Australian Open. Twelve years later, in 2015, Serena completed her second Serena slam after winning Wimbledon.

Serena Williams Grand Slam Singles Titles

Where does Serena Williams rank among the greatest female tennis players?

There is no doubt that Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all-time. She won 23 Grand Slam Singles titles, which is the most in the open era. However, overall, Australia’s Margaret Court won the most Grand Slam Singles with 24. Germany’s Steffi Graf (22), the USA’s Helen Wills (19), Chris Evert (18) and Martina Navratilova (18) should be in conversation among the greatest female tennis players of all-time.

Apart from winning Grand Slam Singles titles, there are other factors which need to be taken into consideration to identify who is the best-ever. One important factor is the overall winning percentage. In that case, Margaret Court has edged past everyone with 192 singles titles, 25 more than second-placed Martina Navratilova.

However, tennis nowadays is more competitive than it was before. Perhaps that is why comparing Serena's achievements with a contemporary player would be more justifiable. In that case, Germany’s Steffi Graf is the closest one who can be considered on the same level as Serena Williams. In some cases, Steffi has a better record than Serena. Steffi Graf, for instance, has 107 more singles titles than Serena Williams.

Serena and Steffi are the only two players who have both a career golden slam and a career super slam. The stats clearly indicate that separating who is best between Serena Williams and Steffi Graf is very difficult. Both players have some incredible records and have a strong claim to be called the greatest female tennis player in the open era.

Major Records of Serena Williams

Serena Williams has set many unique records and reached multiple milestones in her long tennis career before playing her last match against Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open in 2022. Serena managed to overcome Tomljanovic despite her age after dropping the first set. She made a strong comeback in the second set but couldn’t carry on the momentum into the decider. Serena Williams was defeated in the final set by Ajla Tomljanovic, who won 7-5, 6-7, 6-1. Here are some of the major records of Serena Williams' illustrious career.

1) For a record 186 straight weeks, Serena Williams maintained the top spot in the WTA for a record 319 weeks.

2) Serena Williams became the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the open era in 1999.

3) Williams’s sisters won three doubles and Serena Williams won three singles in the Olympic events.

4) Serena Williams twice held all four major titles at once during her career, and she is the oldest player in history to have held all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

5) Only Serena has won more than ten Grand Slam tournaments in two distinct decades.

6) The Serena-Venus duo won 14 Grand Slam Doubles championships.

7) The longest time between the first (1999) and last (2014) US Open titles belongs to Serena.

8) She has a total of 16 top 10 finishes in the WTA.

9) Out of 22 encounters, Serena prevailed over Sharapova 20 times. She defeated the Russians 19 times in a row.

10) Serena Williams has the most Grand Slam Singles titles with 23, the most in the Open era. Her last Grand Slam singles victory came at the 2017 Australian Open. She became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam Singles title by winning the title.

Bottom Line

Serena finally made the decision to stop playing tennis after nearly three decades of competing in order to focus more on her own endeavors and spend more time with her family. She has significantly assisted in the development of the game and motivated millions of black women to be independent. In terms of her legacy, Serena Williams' career accomplishments clearly illustrate that she is one of, if not the best, tennis players of the open era.

Source: United News of Bangladesh