Based on what she accomplished on the court alone, Serena Williams is considered the greatest tennis player of all time.
The 40-year-old American looks set to retire from tennis after this year’s US Open, admitting in a farewell article she wrote for Vogue earlier this month that she has “evolved beyond” the sport.
Serena Williams’ achievements – 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 319 weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings and 14 more major doubles titles – confirmed her status as an icon who changed the face of women’s sports.
After losing to Australian Ajla Tomljanović in the round of 16 of the US Open, Williams, with tears in her eyes and to the sounds of the hit “Simply the best” by Tina Turner, greeted the audience on the open stage for the last time in her career.
In honor of the great champion, here’s a look back at 10 of her most memorable moments on the court.
1. US Open 1999 – wins the first Grand Slam title
It seems like a long time ago that Serena Williams’ Grand Slam singles win was considered a surprise.
Realistically, something like that hasn’t happened since she won her first major title as a seventeen-year-old at the 1999 US Open.
The seventh seed showed not only talent when she defeated Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martinez and Monica Seles, but heart and focus in three consecutive victories after losing the first set.
And then she beat Lindsey Davenport and Martina Hingis – the world number two and world number one – to lift the trophy she had always dreamed of winning.
The gates opened and her journey to the heights began.
2. Indian Wells 2001 – Stronger than racist whistles, Clijsters wins
Seemingly unhappy that Venus Williams withdrew from her semi-final against her younger sister due to injury, the Indian Wells crowd turned on Serena during the final against Belgium’s Kim Clijsters.
It created one of the more unique and uncomfortable atmospheres in tennis history – the Williams sisters and their father Richard later said they were racially abused by spectators.
Loud boos greeted the arrival of 19-year-old Williams and her family on the court, while her mistakes were met with celebration – and even when she made the turnaround to claim victory, the reaction was far from warm.
The way such a young athlete fought back and defeated a top opponent in an extremely toxic atmosphere was fantastic.
Williams demonstrated the great mental strength that would become a hallmark of her career, shutting out the noise and demonstrating the flawless performance that were early signs of her greatness.
3. Wimbledon 2002 – becomes the first in the world
When she started competing in tournaments, Serena Williams thought she would forever be known as “Venus’ little sister.”
But her father Richard had always predicted that the younger sister would prove to be the better tennis player and when Serena won the first of seven titles at Wimbledon, it was the moment when it seemed as if the transfer of power had already begun to happen unequivocally.
Immediately after defeating Venus in the Roland Garros final, Serena produced a clinically flawless game that dispelled any lingering doubts that she could not give her all when playing her sister.
More importantly, at the age of twenty, she replaced Venus as the world number one, a position she held for the next 49 weeks and, a total surpassed only by Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, for a total of 319 weeks in her career.
4. Australian open 2003 – wins the first “Serena Slam”
Only six women have held all four major titles at the same time – and at the age of 21, Williams put her name on the ring with another emotional victory over her older sister in Melbourne.
Although not a true “Grand Slam” for tennis purists – it is reserved only for tied streaks in a calendar year – when Williams won the 2003 Australian Open, having triumphed at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the 2002 US Open, it was dubbed the “Serena Slam”. .
The enormity of Serena’s achievement, what it meant and how much pressure came with it came through in her victory speech.
“I never cry, but I’m very emotional right now,” she said.
5. Australian open 2007 – returns after the big crisis
The mid-2000s was one of the most difficult periods in Serena Williams’ career.
Grief-stricken after her older sister Jetunde Price was killed in a drive-by shooting and struggling with a serious injury, the seven-time champion briefly dropped out of the world’s top 100 and returned to Melbourne in 2006 ranked 81st in the world.
At the age of 25, disparaging comments were made about her physical form and lack of preparation, but she managed to make it to the final and play one of the best matches of her career there.
With her killer arsenal of thunderous serves and unstoppable returns back on top, Williams beat soon-to-be world number one Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour and three minutes.
6. London 2012 – wins the Golden Slam in both singles and doubles
Although Williams has already accomplished more than most tennis players can only dream of, there is one thing she still lacks: an Olympic gold medal in singles.
It was the motivating factor that helped her become the first tennis player to win the Golden Slam in both singles and doubles at the age of thirty, when she spent most of 2011 recovering from a cut on her foot and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
“I thought, ‘Even if my career ends, I have a gold medal and now I have everything,'” she said.
Williams was in her best form when she overcame her old rival Sharapova 6-0, 6-1, and celebrated the victory with the legendary triumphal dance on the Central Court.
7. Wimbledon 2015 – Serena wins the second “Slam”
One of the defining characteristics of Serena Williams has been her ability to come back from a crisis seemingly better than ever.
After a chaotic performance at Wimbledon in 2014, which caused concern and was later attributed to Williams feeling “like she had a fever”, she soon returned to her best form and won the US Open two months later.
It launched another streak of major victories and sent Williams, 33, to Wimbledon looking to complete a second Serena Slam.
Unwilling to talk about the achievement as she played match after match, Williams appeared nervous at first, then recovered to beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4 to win her 21st major singles title.
8. Australian Open 2017 – pregnant Stefi Graf breaks the record
After matching Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 titles at Wimbledon 2016, it seemed a matter of when, not if, Williams would surpass the German’s impressive tally.
That moment was missed when she lost to Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of the US Open, but Williams took advantage of the very first next opportunity.
As she calmly breezed through the Australian Open at the age of 35, she managed not to drop a single set, defeating her sister Venus in a final that few predicted she would watch.
An even bigger shock was yet to follow.
In April, about 12 weeks after winning the title, Serena revealed that she was pregnant.
Calculations indicated that she was eight weeks pregnant when she achieved victory over Venus – making an already fantastic feat all the more remarkable.
9. Indian Wells 2018 – Back in action afterwhich almost dies in childbirth
Five months after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September 2017, Williams revealed she nearly died of a pulmonary embolism when the baby was delivered by C-section.
“I am happy that I survived,” she said.
At the age of 36, she managed to fully recover and return to the field in March 2018.
The competitive comeback began in Indian Wells – where she lost to Venus 17 years after the incident that launched their 14-year boycott – and led to appearances in the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open later that year.
Although Serena lost both finals, she has already surpassed all expectations simply by returning to the competition and proving that she is still among the best.
10. Auckland 2020 – makes history in the fourth decade of his career
Swinging both arms in the air and throwing her head back to let out a roar of triumph, Williams only reaffirmed what we all already knew: the fire inside her never stops burning.
Celebrating her victory over Jessica Pegula in the final of the Oakland Classic had a double meaning for Serena Williams.
As well as being her first title since becoming a mother, it also meant that, at the age of 38, she became the first tennis player to win a WTA singles title in four different decades.
“It took a crazy long time,” she commented later.
Source: Dnevni list Danas by www.danas.rs.
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