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Serena Williams: Looking back at her six US Open titles

Serena Williams won her first U.S. Open as a 17-year-old in 1999. (Jamie Squire/Allsport)

Serena Williams and Arthur Ashe Stadium go back. Way back.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion is expected to retire from tennis following the 2022 US Open — a fitting cap to her career, as the New York tournament provided the setting for her first major title back in 1999.

But don’t count her out in her swan song.

Williams has won her first two matches, including an upset victory Wednesday against No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round. She advances to face Ajla Tomljanović on Friday in the round of 32.

As Williams eyes another electric run at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Just Women’s Sports takes a look back at her six previous US Open championships.

1999: A star is born

A teenager entered the 1999 final as the world No. 1 and a five-time major champion – and it wasn’t Williams. Martina Hingis entered as the seasoned veteran at all of 18 years old, while 17-year-old Williams came in as the upstart looking for her first major victory.

The No. 7 seed, Williams faced off against four eventual Hall of Famers on the way to the final: Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martinez, Monica Seles and finally No. 2 seed Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals.

In the championship match, Williams won in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7), announcing herself as a star in her own right. She even beat older sister Venus to a major title – Venus won her first two in 2000 at Wimbledon and back at the US Open.

“Even though Richard Williams had already been making noise about how Serena ultimately was going to be the better player, better than Venus, we didn’t think it was going to happen quite yet,” Hall of Fame tennis journalist Steve Fink told USOpen.org. “I just remember it really surprised me. A year or two later it wouldn’t have, but I thought Martina was still going to have the edge at that stage in the final, with her experience.”

2002: The Venus and Serena Show

After winning her first US Open, Williams did not win another major until 2002 – but that year, she went on a tear. She won the French Open and Wimbledon before capping her year with another win in New York, and all three titles came against sister Venus.

She blazed through the year’s last major. In her first five matches, she conceded just 14 games through 10 sets, then dispatched No. 4 seed Davenport in straight sets in the semifinal. Finally, the younger Williams sister then took down the elder 6-4, 6-3.

“Serena was the best player the whole tournament this year,” Venus said at the time. “I have to give it to her for that. My game went down after the fourth round and I just couldn’t do a thing to bring it back up.”

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(Bongarts/Getty Images)

This major saw Serena turn heads not just for her play but also for her fashion sense. The now infamous catsuit, designed by Puma, drew worldwide attention following her first match.

“If you don’t have a decent shape, this isn’t the outfit to have,” Williams said. “It makes me run faster and jump higher and it’s really sexy. [Venus told me it’s] really fun, really exciting and very sexy. I mean, she just basically described me.”

While Williams received blowback for the outfit, she shut down the critics, saying, “Nobody is ever going to tell me what to wear.”

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(Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)

2008: Reclaimed glory

Williams reached No. 1 in the world for the first time in 2002, but she lost the ranking in 2003. She didn’t regain the top spot again until her third US Open win in 2008.

Entering as the No. 4 seed, Williams did not drop a set en route to the title. Her most troublesome match of the tournament came in the quarterfinals against Venus, who took Serena to tiebreakers in both sets.

From there, Williams sailed through the semifinal against Dinara Safina and the final against Jelena Jankovic.

While she walked away with her ninth major, Williams asserted after the match that she wasn’t satisfied. Of course, she eventually compiled a total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m pushing the doors to double digits, which I obviously want to get to,” she said. “I feel like I can do it.”

2012: 30 and thriving

With her win over Victoria Azarenka in 2012, Williams became the third woman in history to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympics in the same season, joining Steffi Graf (1988) and sister Venus (2000).

The world No. 1 made a near-flawless run, with her only lost set coming in the final against Azarenka, which she won 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. Williams served up 13 total aces in the final and hit a peak serve of 125 mph at one point in the match.

Despite her dominant play, Williams found herself on the verge of defeat – two points away from it, in fact – before she rallied to take the final four games and win the final set.

After winning her 15th major at the age of 30, Williams would rattle off another eight majors in her 30s.

2013: Back-to-back titles

The duo of Azarenka and Williams met once again in the US Open final, and once again, it was a three-set thriller, with Williams winning 7-5, 6-7 (10-8), 6-1. In another repeat of the previous year, Williams’ lone dropped set came against Azarenka in the final.

The 2013 major marked the 17th of her career, officially beginning the chants proclaiming Williams to be the greatest of all time. It also marked her fourth major in 16 months, a record for a women’s player over the age of 30.

Five majors away from Steffi Graf’s record of 22 in the Open era, 32-year-old Williams shut down questions about age as an obstacle to her success.

“I don’t think about it. I always said, age for me, I feel great. I’ve never felt better,” she said. “I feel really fit. I haven’t felt like this in a number of years, and so I’m excited about the possibilities.

“I don’t know what can happen, I just keep playing and doing the best that I can.”

Of course, Williams would go on to win six more majors. Further defying the doubters, Williams would make the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 mere months after giving birth to daughter Olympia Ohanian.

2014: Three-peat for the ages

Williams won her third consecutive US Open in 2014, just one off the record of Chris Evert, who rattled off four in a row from 1975-78. For a record-matching third time, she did not lose a set en route to the title.

She also equaled the record for US Open singles titles in the Open era.

In the final, Williams took down friend Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-1. The match lasted just 75 minutes, and Williams was emotional as she accepted the trophy on the same court on which she won her first at 17 years old.

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(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

“It is a pleasure for me to win my first Grand Slam here and then this No. 18,” Williams said. “So I’m really emotional. I couldn’t ask to do it at a better place.”

For her win, Williams won a record $4 million – $3 million in prize money plus $1 million as a bonus for having the best record during the North America summer hard court circuit. The match also made her the first women’s athlete to earn more than $60 million in prize money.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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