Aryna Sabalenka thanks Billie Jean King after Australian Open win
It's Sabalenka's first title.
The 2022 US Open will almost certainly be Serena Williams’ last, with the 23-time Grand Slam champion announcing her plans to retire in a Vogue cover story in early August.
With the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s final outing looming, the tennis world has grown reflective.
As an ambassador to the sport and one of the best to ever do it, Williams has earned the respect and admiration of her peers.
Naomi Osaka expressed her thanks to Williams in a press conference ahead of the US Open, telling reporters, “I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus and her whole family.”
“She is the biggest force in the sport,” declared Osaka.
"I wouldn't be here without Serena and her whole family. She is the biggest force in the sport." 🐐— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 28, 2022
Naomi Osaka with a touching tribute for Serena Williams ahead of the US Open ❤️️#BBCTennis pic.twitter.com/8Y9PtuDmYt
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek also praised the tennis icon, posting a picture of the duo on her Twitter account.
“Congratulations on your amazing journey and legendary career (Serena Williams). Huge respect for everything that you have done for our sport,” she captioned the photo.
🤩So...this is the highlight of my day.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) August 28, 2022
Congratulations on your amazing journey and legendary career @serenawilliams. Huge respect for everything that you have done for our sport. pic.twitter.com/GoDRmnCO4D
Tennis legend Billie Jean King paid tribute to Williams in a New York Times op-ed, calling the news of her retirement “particularly hard” because of what she represents for the sport.
“She’s the GOAT, the greatest of all time — or at least the greatest of her time, since every generation gets better,” King said. “Serena has changed how tennis is played.”
Coco Gauff, who many compare to Williams as a fellow teenage phenom, spoke on what the star has meant to her in a Washington Post story.
“Sometimes being a woman, a Black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less,” Gauff said. “I feel like Serena taught me that, from watching her. She never settled for less. … As a person, I’m growing into being an adult and learning how to handle things now with the media and tennis and everything. I’m trying to learn to not settle for less.”
It isn’t just the tennis world praising Serena, South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley also made her thoughts on Williams’ impact known in the same Washington Post piece.
“Serena’s iconic to Black women,” said Staley. “She’s doing it her way, and there’s no more comfortable way of doing it. We all want that. We all want to be in a space in our professions where we’re able to be us. Because everybody ain’t able. And every Black woman certainly isn’t able.”
All eyes will be on Williams when she takes the court on Monday night in her first-round US Open matchup against Danka Kovinić.
It's Sabalenka's first title.
Instead, she'll set her sights on the doubles bracket.
Pegula is the last American woman standing.
Both lost in straight sets.
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