Closing at the Open: Serena Williams Retires

Drew Fischer, Assistant Sports Editor

Although the U.S. Open ended on Saturday, Sept. 10 when top-seeded Iga Świątek defeated fifth-seeded Ons Jabeur in straight sets, national headlines continue to celebrate the accolades, persistence and longevity of Serena Williams, the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. 

At age forty, Williams entered her final U.S. Open ranked 321st in singles and 387th in doubles. However, as tennis fans have quickly come to understand: you can never count out Serena. In a first-round battle with Danka Kovinić, Serena cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 victory to set up a clash with Anett Kontaveit, the second-seeded rising star from Estonia.

As a massive underdog playing one of tennis’ brightest young players, Williams entered the second-round with media attention focused on her impending retirement and the commemoration of her accomplishments. In the crowd, celebrities flocked to Arthur Ashe Stadium as Alexis Ohanian (Serena’s husband), Olympia Ohanian (Serena’s daughter), Hugh Jackman, Lindsey Vonn, Spike Lee, Bella Hadid, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Tiger Woods and many more passionately tuned in to the action. Rather than soaking in the media attention, Serena used her terrific serve and a balanced ground stroke effort to knock off Kontaveit in a grueling three-set battle. 

Two days later, Ajla Tomljanovic proved to be too much for the 73-time singles tournament champion. After losing the first-set 7-5, Serena battled back to win a second-set tiebreak by a score of 7-4. In the third and final set, however, Tomljanovic took control and cruised to a 6-1 victory. 

Rather than passionately celebrating with her coaches and family, Tomljanovic quickly won over the crowd in Flushing, New York by giving Williams the floor to embrace her fans one final time. In her post-match interview, Tomljanovic even apologized to the crowd for defeating her idol: “I’m feeling really sorry just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do.”

By turning the page on her professional career to spend more time with her family and start a new chapter in her life, Williams is closing the book on one of the most successful careers not only in tennis, but in any sport around the world. 

During her 27 year professional career that started at age 14, Williams compiled 23 Grand Slam victories and won four straight Grand Slams on two occasions. With seven titles at the Australian Open, seven at Wimbledon, six at the US Open and three at the French Open, Williams also holds the record for match wins at a Grand Slam with an astounding 367 triumphs. 

At age 17, Williams won her first Grand Slam and in 2019, she won the U.S. Open after the birth of her daughter Olympia. While continuing to pursue the overall Grand Slam title record held by Margaret Court in recent years, Williams avoided perhaps her most challenging opponent of all time: her sister, Venus. 

Growing up in Compton, California, Serena and Venus were initially coached by their father Richard, a self-taught player himself. With aspiring dreams to reach Wimbledon and become the number one players in the world, the Williams sisters revolutionized the sport of tennis and paved the way for a young generation of girls to dream big and refuse to limit themselves. 

Playing on the professional tour, Serena and Venus constantly battled each other on the court. On 31 separate occasions, the sisters met in professional matches with Serena prevailing 19 times. Astonishingly, nine of these meetings came in Grand Slam finals, validating the true stamp that the Williams family placed on the world of tennis. 

Despite challenging each other on opposite sides of the court, the Williams sisters also joined forces throughout their career as doubles partners. With 14 total Grand Slam doubles titles and three Gold Medals in the Olympics, the duo sustained dominance by going undefeated in every Grand Slam doubles final they played in. 

As sports fans continue to celebrate Serena Williams’ journey from her professional debut in 1995 to her potential final match at the U.S. Open in 2022, one woman’s impact on the sport of tennis is undeniable. In her place, a new generation of talented players, such as Carlos Alcaraz, the first teenager to reach the world number-one ranking, is well-prepared to take the game to new heights in the near future.