AAfter a spirited run in their likely final tennis fit, Serena Williams couldn’t help but look back fondly on her career after falling 7-5 6-7(4) 6-1 Ajla Tomljanovic.
“Thanks dad, I know you’re watching. Thank you Mama.” Williams said before beginning to cry during her on-pitch interview after the game. “Everyone who’s here, who’s been on my side for so many years, decades…
“Those are tears of joy, I think. I dont know. And I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t for Venus, so thank you Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed… It’s been a fun ride. It was the most incredible ride and journey I have ever been on.”
Given her career spanning four decades (she debuted in 1995, she lost 1-6, 601 to Anne Mueller at the US Open) and having won the most Grand Slams in the Open Era (23), along with countless other accomplishments, Serena has more than enough ammunition to be considered the greatest of all time.
The Legacy of Serena Williams
To say that Serena changed the world of tennis would be putting it mildly.
Serena, along with sister Venus, will be remembered for how they changed the sport, with players like Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka, Taylor Townsend and Frances Tiafoe attributing to them interest in and entry into a sport that was mostly white.
Serena debuted in 1995 at the age of 14, but it wasn’t until 1999 that she began to make a name for herself at the top. She did so with a bang, beating Martina Hingis in the US Open final to become the first black woman since Althea Gibson 1958 to win a major.
In July 2002, she became world No. 1 for the first time, a feat she would complete in May 2017 for the last time. In 2002 she won for the first time in Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
She would win the Australian Open for the first time in 2003, with her powerful serve a big reason. With speeds approaching 200 km/h, there was no denying that there had never been players with the intensity that Serena and Venus displayed as they stormed onto the stage.
In the end, Serena finishes her career with 73 titles and 23 Grand Slams compared to Venus’ 49 titles and seven Majors.
That longevity and success has led them to come across names like Hingis, Pierce, Capriati, Henin, Myskina, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Clijsters, Mauresmo, Ivanovic, Kvitova, Stoour, Azarenka, Na Li, Bartoli, Kerber, Muguruza, Stephens, Ostapenko, Halep, Osaka, Barty and Swiatek.
While there was still a clear distinction between the top 5 in women’s tennis in the early 1990s, that can no longer be said today. It has become much more balanced as the level of competition has been raised thanks to the example of Serena Williams.
Serena was at the top of her game for 20 years of her 27-year career. She has suffered from injuries and illnesses and even won the 2018 Australian Open while she was two months pregnant.
But like all greats, time has caught up with them. As a result, women’s tennis bids farewell to the last dominant force in the sport, with Iga Swiatek being the only player showing signs of carrying that torch.
Perhaps a new force will emerge in the years to come, but either way it will be difficult for any player to come close to the impact Serena Williams has had on the sport.