Serena Williams retires, continues to inspire

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Ask and you shall receive (a devastating serve). Carine06 via Flickr

A look at the track record and legacy this legend leaves in her stead

Who would have believed that a Black girl from Compton, California would grow up to win 23 grand slam championships and be deemed the tennis GOAT (greatest of all time) by so many? That’s exactly what Serena Williams did, showing to many that you can accomplish great things even when the odds are against you. Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1981, and then moved to Compton, California before the age of four. The area of California where Serena grew up was known for its gang violence, drug trafficking, and high poverty rate – a place many believe would be hard for anyone to flourish in.

Serena grew up with five maternal half-siblings and seven paternal half-siblings. She is also the younger sister of tennis superstar Venus Williams. Growing up, her sister Venus was her tennis partner and greatest competitor. The pair were trained by their father Richard Williams and were home-schooled to allow the girls to focus on tennis full time. Both sisters would go on to achieve greatness in the sport of tennis, becoming a dynamic duo who pushed each other to the brink of stardom.

When Serena was nine years old, her family moved from Compton to West Palm Beach, Florida to allow the girls greater opportunities within the sport of tennis. Serena and Venus attended the tennis academy of Rick Macci to obtain additional coaching. Serena started attending National Junior tennis tournaments when she was just 10 years old. However, after racial remarks made by the parents of other competitors, Richard decided to stop sending his kids to these types of tournaments and to allow Serena and Venus to grow slowly within the game of tennis. Serena was already ranked the number one tennis player under the age of 10 in Florida at the time.

She made her professional debut in 1995 at the age of 14. Serena would go on to have a tennis record of 858-154 in women’s singles, which is an 84.8 per cent winning rate. Over her career she has won 73 titles as a singles player. She won her first grand slam in 1999 by winning the US Open. Williams went on to win the Australian Open seven times (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), the French Open three times (2002, 2013, 2015), Wimbledon seven times (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016), and the US Open six times (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014). Serena has also won three Olympic gold medals in doubles at the Sydney, Beijing, and London Olympic Summer Games, and has won one Olympic gold medal in singles at the London Olympics. She was one grand slam away from tying Margaret Court with 24 grand slam titles.

Serena will go on to be considered one of the best players to play in the modern game. Serena also had many setbacks throughout her career, like many professional athletes. However, her comebacks were always special, and showcased how truly great of an athlete and a competitor she was. From 2004-2006 Serena experienced serious injuries that would force her to stop competing for a period of time. Williams experienced knee issues that she believed could go away on their own, however she soon realized that this was not the case.

In 2005, Serena was forced to skip the French Open due to an ankle injury followed by continuous knee issues in 2006, which only saw her compete in four tournaments that season. Halfway through her 2011 season, Serena suffered a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism. A hematoma is a type of blood clot that is usually caused by surgery or an injury, and a pulmonary embolism is when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung. During the 2016 season, she suffered from inflammation in her knee and shoulder which forced her to withdraw from tournaments, and in 2020, Williams injured her Achilles tendon which stopped her from competing.

As her career continued, Serena was never afraid to speak her mind and let her position be known on matters of importance. In 2018 Serena wore a custom catsuit during a French Open match to help with blood clots after coming back to tennis while experiencing complications from giving birth to her daughter, Olympia. The president of the French Tennis Federation cited that the outfit went too far, and that it didn’t respect the game and place of tennis and therefore violated the French Open’s dress code. Women have often been judged and scrutinized for their outfits and this instance was no exception. Serena had experienced this type of response and public scrutiny in the past and, instead of directly responding to the comments, she showcased her position in a more subtle manner. Serena’s response to the backlash was simply to wear a tutu in her next match. Williams would later express how fashion on the court had become a vehicle for her in sharing a powerful message.

In September of 2022 Serena announced her retirement from tennis. Williams wrote that she was evolving away from tennis and was focussing on other issues that were important to her. She wants to grow her family and to focus time and energy into her venture capital firm. In her decision to finally retire she cited that she sought counsel from Tiger Woods in making her decision to step away from the game of tennis.

Serena has broken barriers both on and off the court, becoming a trailblazer for women everywhere. Her ability to break past barriers that many couldn’t was inspirational for so many people including current players Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, who both stated that they would not be playing if it wasn’t for Serena Williams. Serena’s career ultimately came to an end at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the third round of the 2022 US Open.

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