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Serena Williams: Biggest moments from her storied career

Serena Williams reacts after winning her 23rd Grand Slam at the 2017 Australian Open. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

When Serena Williams announced Wednesday her plans to retire from tennis, we at Just Women’s Sports asked ourselves: What are the biggest moments from her 27-year career?

The answer: All of them.

…but we made our best attempt to choose a few anyway.

1999: Winning her first career Grand Slam at the US Open

Fun fact: The full US Open final between 17-year-old Williams and Martina Hingis is available on YouTube. So for those wanting to relive one of the first major moments of her career in the lead-up to what is likely her final US Open, you can do so here:

After breaking onto the scene in 1998, Williams broke through and won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in 1999. Then-world No. 1 and fellow teenager Hingis defeated sister Venus Williams in the semifinals, meaning that Serena’s first appearance in a major final would come against one of the game’s best. (Hingis was the first Swiss player, man or woman, to win a major title and reach No. 1 in the world – a spot she held for 209 weeks).

Williams defeated her in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6, in a surprise to many. While the idea that Williams would win majors wasn’t shocking, many didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“She was already being talked about as a future major winner, just nobody thought it was going to happen at 17 at that US Open,” Pam Shriver said.

2002: Besting Venus at the US Open

After winning the US Open in 1999, it took Williams three years to win another major. Then came 2002, when Serena and her sister put on a show across the major championships.

Serena won her first French Open and her first Wimbledon tournament, as well as her second US Open, and she defeated Venus in all three finals. She completed her first “Serena Slam” at the 2003 Australian Open, where she beat Venus once again in the final.

Serena ended the 2002 season at No. 1 in the world after her US Open win. In her career, she has held the No. 1 spot atop the world rankings for 319 weeks – good for third all time behind Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Her last world No. 1 ranking came in 2017, marking 14 years, 10 months and six days in between her first and last No. 1 ranking – the longest of any women’s player.

2012: Completing the Golden Slam

London seems to be a special place for Williams – after all, Wimbledon is where she chose to make her return this summer after spending the past year out with an injury.

But while Wimbledon holds special weight, so do the 2012 London Olympics. At those Games, she bested Maria Sharapova in the final to win her third Olympic gold medal – her only singles gold medal. While she would win doubles in those same Olympics with sister Venus, the singles medal secured her the career singles Golden Slam – all four major titles plus an Olympic gold medal.

Williams is just the second women’s player in history after Graf to achieve the feat in singles. Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal achieved on the men’s side. No player has joined the list since Williams finished her Golden Slam in 2012.

2017: Winning the Australian Open while pregnant

Echoing a theme that stretched throughout Venus and Serena’s careers, Serena’s last major title came in 2017 at the Australian Open – against sister Venus.

Serena didn’t drop a set all tournament, bringing her total of Grand Slam singles titles to 23. It was her seventh win in Melbourne – the most of any player – and made her the winningest player of the Open era.

A few months later, Serena revealed that she was pregnant with daughter Olympia. The news brought with it the knowledge that Williams had been around eight weeks pregnant when the Australian Open began.

2022: Stepping away to focus on building her family

Make no mistake, the greatest player to ever play the game of tennis has mixed emotions about retiring from the sport. She said as much in the Vogue article in which she announced her plans to retire.

In a sports world that has often been dominated by men, Serena Williams has broken the mold. There is no dispute about who she is or the legacy she leaves behind. Serena Williams has changed the game of tennis. More than that, she has changed the game for women, period.

The unfairness of having to choose between growing her family and continuing her tennis career is not lost on Williams. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family,” she told Vogue.

Still, there’s also something incredibly empowering about Williams, 41, making the decision to step away and doing so on her own terms.

“I don’t particularly like to think about my legacy,” Williams told Vogue. “I get asked about it a lot, and I never know exactly what to say.

“But I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.”

Caitlin Clark stuns in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports. It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before. Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, answers need to be had from head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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