Twenty-Three Grand Slams Later, Serena Williams Evolves Away from Tennis

Courtesy of Adam Pretty, Getty Images

In October 1995, just a month after her fourteenth birthday, Serena Williams took the court as a professional for the first time at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City. Even though she lost in the qualifying round of her professional debut, Williams’s story was just beginning. Throughout the next 27 years of her professional tennis career, she would go on to win 73 singles titles to rank fifth all time, earn over $94 million USD in prize money to rank first all time, and win more Grand Slam singles titles than any other player in the Open Era

Williams has undoubtedly had one of the most storied careers out of all athletes in the sport of tennis. Her 23 singles Grand Slams, fourteen doubles Grand Slams, two mixed doubles Grand Slams, and four Olympic gold medals make her one of the most decorated tennis players — and athletes — of all time. 

Williams won the first of her 23 singles Grand Slams at the 1999 U.S. Open, defeating the world No. 1 rank and defending champion Martina Hingis. Williams went on to win her next singles Grand Slam title at the 2002 French Open, where she beat none other than her older sister, Venus Williams, who was the current world No. 1 at the time. Serena Williams defeated her sister again at the 2002 Wimbledon, earning her third singles Grand Slam and finally earning the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. Serena Williams held the world No. 1 spot for 319 weeks — just over six years — throughout her career. 

To date, Williams posts a 858-156 career singles record, with a win percentage of 84.6%. Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open, again defeating her sister Venus and also surpassing Steffi Graf’s Open Era singles Grand Slam record of 22 titles

Aside from the singles competition, Williams also competed in doubles and often paired with her sister Venus. The two achieved remarkable triumphs as a pair, including three Olympic gold medals in 2000, 2008, and 2012 and fourteen doubles Grand Slams. Serena and Venus also often competed against each other in singles and have faced each other a total of 31 times to date, with Serena leading their head-to-head matchups 19-12. The sisters faced each other in nine Grand Slam finals, with Serena winning seven. Most recently, the pair competed in women’s doubles for the first time since 2018 at the 2022 U.S. Open, but fell in two sets to Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká of Czechia in the first round of the tournament on Sept. 1. 

Williams also competed in the women’s singles tournament at the 2022 U.S. Open, where she quickly bested Danka Kovinić of Montenegro 6-3, 6-3, to earn the first round victory in two sets. Williams then defeated the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Anett Kotaveit of Estonia, in the third and final set of the second round matchup. Williams would then go on to fall to Ajla Tomljanović of Australia in the third round on Sept. 2, but Williams’s performance in the tournament would be one to remember as it likely was one of her last tournaments. 

Before the 2022 U.S. Open, Williams wrote in Vogue on Aug. 9, 2022: “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” In her Vogue piece titled “Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis On Her Own Terms — And In Her Own Words,” Williams discusses her career and also hints at her plans for the future, which include focusing on her family as well as Serena Venture, a venture capital firm that she founded. 

Williams also remarks: “I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me.” As Williams evolves away from tennis, her career will long be remembered and her legacy of success will be difficult to match by any other athlete on Earth.  

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