Serena Williams Swings Her Racket One Last Time

The world first saw Serena Williams play at the young age of sixteen years old, when she, with beads in her hair, made it to the third round of the 1998 US Open. In the decades that followed, she rose to the top of the tennis world, winning 23 Grand Slam event singles titles. (Grand Slam events are the four major tennis competitions: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open). Over the course of her career, she has spent 319 weeks ranked as the No. 1 female tennis player in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association. Williams, along with her sister, Venus, is credited by many for reinventing the game of tennis and being a trailblazer in fashion, entertainment, business, and female athletics. After several years of retirement speculation, she ended her career on Sept. 2, 2022, where it all began: at the US Open. 

After the 1998 US Open, she won the mixed doubles title with Max Mirnyi. After the successes of her breakout year, winning a singles title at the US Open became her mission. She achieved it in 1999 when she defeated Martina Hingis. The win made her the first Black woman to win a Grand Slam event since Althea Gibson in 1958. From 1999 to 2019, she won 22 more Grand Slam events and was runner-up nine times. When a tennis player wins all four Grand Slam events in one calendar year, it is known as a Grand Slam. Williams came close to this achievement in 2015, when she won the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. However, she was defeated in the semifinals at the US Open by an unseated Italian, Roberta Vinci.  

In addition to her Grand Slam wins, Williams has also won four Olympic gold medals. She received three for doubles with Venus: one at the 2000 games in Sydney, one in 2008 in Beijing, and one in 2012 in London. She earned her fourth in singles, also in London. 

When Williams announced her pregnancy in the spring of 2017, many thought it would mark the end of her career. She gave birth to a daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., that September. Four months later, she returned to the court, and four of her Grand Slam runner-up titles came after having her daughter. 

In her 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka, there was much controversy. Chair umpire Carlos Ramos set off an uproar by calling a code violation on Williams because her coach was signaling to her from the seats. In response, Williams said to Ramos, You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” Later on in the match, Williams smashed her racket. The emotional match ended with Osaka beating Williams. Afterwards, Williams congratulated and hugged Osaka, who had won her first major title. 

Williams has proven to have quite the fan base. She announced her plans to retire after playing in the US Open in a September issue of Vogue magazine. That same day, 13,000 tickets to the US Open were sold by 3 p.m. In the Vogue issue, she shared her dislike of the word “retirement,” saying she prefers the word “evolution.” Williams’ evolutions include her growing family and venture capital firm. 

In her final US Open, Williams was defeated in the third round by Australian Ajla Tomljanovic. Both players delivered impressive performances in the match, which included two tense tiebreakers. Her daughter, now four years old, wore white beads in her hair as she cheered Williams on, a callback to her signature hairstyle from the beginning of her career.

Many have come to admire Serena Williams. Junior Mary Costello shared, “I was very saddened by her retirement because she was such an influential part of women’s sports.” Junior Marisa Parco added that Williams made history and will always be admired. Parco has followed Williams throughout her career and said, “For the past couple of years, I noticed her name staying out of the headlines, and you can tell she was coming out of her prime, so I saw this coming.” Williams has also inspired the future generation of tennis players. Junior Amanda McDonald, a tennis player, expressed, “I enjoyed following her through this year’s US Open.” Sophomore Kelsey Roth, a tennis player, goes to the US Open each year: “It is one of my favorite traditions. I always have a great time watching the best players in the world!” Roth also shared that she had the opportunity to watch Serena Williams during some of her last practices at the US Open. Long after her retirement, Williams will anticipatedly remain a celebrated and remembered name in America as a powerful and influential Black female athlete.