Griffitt, Xue: Williams steps off the court, leaves behind a stellar legacy


Edwin_Martinez CC BY 2.0

Serena Williams announced her retirement from tennis at the 2022 US Open. Her career may finished, but her legacy lives on.

Alyson Griffitt and Iris Xue

Serena Williams, the queen of tennis, officially retired after her final match in the U.S. Open on Sept. 2.  

Though her retirement came as a surprise to some of her fans, Williams hinted at retirement plans in August during her interview with Vogue magazine. 

“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams said. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me… Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”  

Williams always wanted to evolve away from tennis after a U.S. Open tournament, and this year, she finally decided to step away. After a grueling third-set tiebreak against Ajla Tomljanović in the third round, Williams gave her final twirl on the court and announced her retirement from professional tennis at the very same Grand Slam tournament that launched her career. 

Williams’ career began in 1995 when she was 14 and played her first professional tournament at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City. Though she lost in straight sets to Annie Miller in the first round, she still demonstrated stellar technique; her serves and groundstrokes were so powerful, she caught the eye of the tennis world and started winning matches not long after.  

In 1999, Williams won her first Grand Slam tournament against Swiss legend Martina Hingis in straight sets. On the way to the final match, Williams, 18 at the time, dominated the court against previous Grand Slam champions. Her performance started the era of teenage championships and motivated junior tennis players of her era to go professional.  

Her 1999 U.S. Open Singles Championship was just the first of a long line of titles for Williams. Though she struggled with consistency following that title, she changed her game, and in 2002, she swiftly grabbed the championship titles for the French Open, Wimbledon and her second U.S. Open title. In all three tournament finals, she faced her sister, Venus Williams, and these wins launched her to the ranking of world No. 1, taking her sister’s place.

At the top of her game, Williams captured title after title following her three consecutive Grand Slam championships. She won her first Australian Open in 2003, and she continued to win titles at Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open. By the 2017 Australian Open, she had won a total of 23 Grand Slams. Though injuries prevented her from playing many tournaments in 2018 and beyond, Williams was still loved by her large fanbase, whether she won or lost. 

Despite being loved by many, Williams still faced a wave of backlash from racist onlookers throughout her career. Williams said during the 2001 Indian Wells tournament in California , she received racial jeering from the crowd. At only 19, this would not be the only form of racism she would face. After a messy tournament in 2018 resulting in Williams losing and smashing her racket, The Herald Sun released a cartoon depicting Williams in a racially offensive manner. Even with the hate she faced, Williams persevered and never let the prejudice of others determine her fate, making her an idol for many to admire. 

As a figure in the public eye, Williams became very vocal in activism for the Black Lives Matter movement and demanded equal pay for women and women of color in tennis. She became an idol for many low-income minority girls. When Billie Jean King told her to stop being so open in her activism and to focus on tennis, Williams responded, “The day I stop fighting for equality will be the day I’m in my grave.” 

Despite her multitude of Grand Slam singles titles, Williams has done more than just shape modern-day tennis. She helped to dismantle the patriarchy against women of color in tennis and said, “I wanted to empower women to just feel strong and feel amazing.” Not many athletes can say they are the reason many young girls have pursued sports, especially male-dominant ones, and come out successful, but that is exactly what Williams did; she established her spot in history and will never be forgotten.  

Williams never became bitter at her opponents — even when she loses. She congratulates them and will sometimes even hug them. She is calm and composed on the court, which contributed to her legendary status. From her swift and strong arm on the court to her outspoken activism off it, Williams will never stop influencing people to do what they love.