As Serena Williams hangs up her racket following her exit from the US Open, she closes the book on one of the greatest careers not just in tennis but in sports.
The 40-year-old announced her retirement plans in early August via a Vogue cover story, a bold move befitting the groundbreaking, statement-making superstar. She inspired a new generation of athletes by being the best while being unapologetically herself, using her platform as a tennis champion to push the boundaries of sports and culture.
“Sometimes being a woman, a Black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less,” said rising American star Coco Gauff. “I feel like Serena taught me that, from watching her. She never settled for less.”
After Williams’ final Grand Slam, Just Women’s Sports takes a look back at Williams’ journey through the numbers.
Not only has Williams dominated the WTA, she’s dominated the Olympics as well, winning four gold medals in her career — one in singles and three in women’s doubles.
Williams played in this year’s US Open as a six-time singles champion, tying her with Chris Evert for the most in the Open era. The US Open is also the site of her first-ever Grand Slam back in 1999. She won it for the second time in 2002, after winning the French Open and Wimbledon that same year.
“I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the US Open,” said Williams in Vogue. “I didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning.”
The Australian Open has been kind to Williams, with the future Hall of Famer winning the major singles title seven times, the most all-time for a women’s player.
Since turning 30, Williams has won 10 of her 23 individual Grand Slams, a record in women’s tennis.
After winning her 17th overall major title at the 2013 US Open, she shut down questions about age as an obstacle to success.
“I don’t think about it. I always said, age for me, I feel great. I’ve never felt better,” she said.
A total of 14 years, 10 months and six days passed between the time when Williams first acquired the No. 1 ranking on July 8, 2002, and the last time she held the No. 1 ranking on May 14, 2017. That’s the longest any women’s player has gone between their first and last No. 1 rankings.
With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Williams sits just one behind Margaret Court for the most all-time. Williams, however, does hold the record for the most titles in the Open era.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘Open era’ that began in 1968. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do,” Williams told Vogue. “But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Grand Slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a Grand Slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary.”
On top of her 23 major singles titles, Williams also won 14 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles and two in mixed doubles. All of her doubles titles have come alongside sister Venus. The two teamed up again at this year’s US Open, falling in the first round to Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká.
That mark gives her the most combined major titles among active players.
The tennis great has won 73 total singles titles.
Williams has racked up $94.6 million in prize money. That stands as the most of any women’s tennis player, per the WTA. In second is sister Venus Williams, who has earned a total of $42.3 million in prize money.
“Venus and I started out being successful, continued to be successful, and we were also unapologetically ourselves,” Williams told Allure in 2019. “We were not afraid to wear braids. We weren’t afraid to be Black in tennis. And that was different.”
In total, Williams spent 319 weeks atop the world rankings, ranking third all-time behind Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.
Throughout her career, Williams held a singles record of 858-156. Her 367 total wins in Grand Slams sits second all-time behind Roger Federer.
Williams played 1,015 matches on the WTA Tour. During her career, she has faced opponents born in every year from 1966 to 2003, and two-thirds of her matches came against players younger than she was.
Yet more than her staggering success, Williams leaves behind a legacy of changing the game for women.
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another,” she said. “We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: Be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”