Serena Williams lost her bid for what would have been her sixth U.S. Open singles title.
It was the second straight year that Williams lost in the finals.
But with 23 Grand Slam tournament titles and a .850 career winning percentage, Williams’ legacy as the world’s greatest tennis player was solidified a long time ago.
“Serena Williams’s legacy is sealed, whether or not she ever hits a tennis ball again,” Tera W. Hunter, a professor of history and African American studies at Princeton, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.
“It’s sad she didn’t beat Bianca Andreescu at the finals of the U.S. Open Championships and match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. But her contributions to the game are much bigger than reaching another Grand Slam Final,” Hunter wrote.
Williams, 37, began playing tennis at the age of 5 in Compton, California. Under the tutelage of her father, Richard Williams, Serena and her sister Venus rose to stardom in the 1990s. The duo took the tennis world by storm, with Serena Williams ultimately surpassing her sister and others as easily the best in the sport.
Williams, who has earned approximately $100 million in her career, won her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17 and she hasn’t looked back.
Here are just some of her accomplishments:
- At the 1999 U.S. Open, became the second African-American woman to win a Grand Slam title at 17 years old.
- By winning the 2001 Australian Open doubles championship with Venus Williams, became the fifth pair to complete a Career Doubles Grand Slam and the only pair to win a Career Doubles Golden Slam.
- At the 2001 U.S. Open, marked the first time in the Open Era, and the second time in 117 years that sisters met in a Grand Slam final (with Venus)
- At the 2002 Roland Garros final, she became the first younger sister to defeat her older sister in a Grand Slam singles tournament.
- By winning the 2003 Australian Open, became the fifth woman to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously.
- By winning the 2003 Australian Open, became the first African-American to win the championship.
- By winning the 2003 Wimbledon ladies’ title, Williams became just the fifth woman in the Open Era to win back-to-back Wimbledon crowns.
- By reaching the final of the 2003 Australian Open, she and sister Venus became the first players to compete in 4 consecutive slam finals.
- By winning the 2005 Australian Open by defeating Mauresmo and Davenport, became the only player in tennis history to win three Grand Slam singles titles (1999 U.S. Open, 2002 Roland Garros) by beating the top two ranked players.
- By winning the 2007 Australian Open became the first unseeded player since 1978 to win a slam; she was ranked #81 in the world.
- Her six-year gap between Wimbledon titles (2003–2009) is second only to Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s nine years in the Open Era.
- Her eleven-year gap between Roland Garros titles (2002–2013) is the longest in the Open Era.
- By winning the 2010 Roland Garros doubles with sister Venus, they became the first pair since 1998 to hold the four doubles slams at the same time.
- By winning the 2010 Roland Garros doubles with sister Venus, they became the first pair in the Open Era to complete the Career Doubles Golden Slam twice (2001 & 2003 Australian Open, 1999 & 2010 Roland Garros, 2000 & 2002 Wimbledon, 1999 & 2009 U.S. Open, and 2000 & 2008 Olympic gold medalists).
- In 2012 Wimbledon, in her semifinal match against Azarenka, she hit a record 24 aces in a match.
- At the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, she set a record for most aces served in a tournament, hitting 102 aces in the tournament, which was the most of men or women at the Championships that year.
- In 2014, she won her 6th U.S. Open title, the most in the Open Era (tied with Evert)
- In 2017, she won her 7th Australian Open title, the most in the Open Era (stands alone).
- Four-time Olympian (2000, 2008, 2012, 2016); Four-time Olympic medalist (4 golds)
- Rio 2016 Olympic Games, T-9th (singles); T-17th (doubles)
- London 2012 Olympic Games, gold (singles, doubles)
- Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, gold (doubles), T-5th (singles)
- Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, gold (doubles)
“She’s without question the embodiment of strength, character, and accomplishment,” said Julio C. Rodriguez, of Université Paris-Sorbonne.
The Undefeated magazine’s managing editor Raina Kelley summed up why Williams is the Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali of her sport.
“Serena Jameka Williams did not come just come to play — she came to slay. And you are alive to see it,” Kelley said.
“Is Serena the GOAT? She reinvented tennis. She invented #BlackGirlMagic. She has all of the trophies ever, and she stands for equality of women around the globe. Is Serena the greatest athlete of all time? Please,” Kelley said.