A career unmatched: Serena’s farewell to tennis

NEW YORK — Like her champion, Serena Williams dropped five match points in her final bout. In the end, it’s not enough.

Williams, perhaps the most honored player in history, ended her tennis career Friday night at the 2022 U.S. Open.

Ajla Tomljanovic won the third round 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1 in front of a packed, enthusiastic crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams at the familiar venue Won a record six U.S. Open titles.

Williams, 40, who has won a record 23 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, will leave the tournament with some of the highest numbers ever.

Technically, Martina Navratilova leads the all-time list for Hologic WTA Tour titles with 167, followed by Chris Evert (157), Stephanie Graff (107), Court (92) and Williams (73).

Beyond the numbers, however, Williams is credited with changing the women’s game.

“I don’t think I even took a moment to realize any impact,” she said in New York in response to tributes from Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka and many others. “I understand it, but I don’t really meditate or think about it. I’ll soon have enough time to do it all.

“I never thought I’d have this impact, never. I’m just a girl trying to play tennis and that’s when I can develop that impact and be a voice. It’s so real because I do what I do things, and I’m just being true to myself.”

There is no doubt that tennis today is deeper than ever, and players are not playing as much as they used to. However, despite several extended sabbaticals, Serena Jameka Williams’ achievement is still the best in her sport. During her 27-year career, she:

  • Won 73 WTA-level titles, fifth in history and first among active players.
  • From 2002 to ’17, there were 8 different reigns at the No. 1 position for a total of 319 weeks, the third-most all-time.
  • Is the most recent player to win all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously – twice, starting in March 2002 and in May 2014.
  • Finished with an overall game record of 858-156 (.846). She is 367-56 in the majors and 108-15 at the US Open.
  • Won more than $94 million, more than any woman in tennis history.
  • Won four Olympic gold medals, three doubles.

“[There’s] For me, this topic is not happy,” Serena wrote in a first-person essay for Vogue magazine. “The best word to describe what I do is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m moving from tennis to other things that are important to me. “

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18-time Grand Slam singles champion Chris Evert summed up Williams’ remarkable career.

“For me,” Evert said after Williams pulled out of Wimbledon in 2021, “her legacy has been sealed.

“Even if she didn’t catch up with Margaret Court’s [all-time] Record [of 24], It’s ok. She is always the greatest. “

Here’s some further background:

From when Williams won her first major U.S. Open in September 1999 to the Australian Open in January 2017, Serena won 23 majors and seven at Venus. The rest of the tennis world — 18 different players — won a total of 40 matches.

That doesn’t include the Williams’ additional 13 Grand Slam final appearances.

Together, they have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.Incredibly, they no way lost the final. In addition, they each won three Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal.

They met 31 times, with Williams leading 19-12. Notably, nine of those were Grand Slam finals, including four of five from the 2001 U.S. Open to the 2002 U.S. Open.

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While so much attention has been focused on Serena’s record challenging Court, consider the quality of her near misses of late.

Williams was 35 years and 124 days old when she won the Australian Open in 2017, making her the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam. Since then, she has reached four more Grand Slam finals. At 37 days and 291 days, Serena was the oldest women’s Grand Slam finalist at Wimbledon in 2019, surpassing Navratilova’s record.

She was nearly 38 when she lost to Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open final later that year. Roger Federer’s illustrious career trajectory is similar to Williams’s, reaching only one Grand Slam final after turning 36, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final.

Against Tomjanovic, Williams is aiming to become the oldest woman to reach the fourth round of a major in the Open era.

Her continued longevity is all the more surprising as she endured long absences.

In 2003, Williams underwent serious knee surgery and missed eight months. Seven years later, she developed a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism and was away for nearly a year. In 2017, after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, she faced serious life-threatening problems, was bedridden for six weeks and ended up missing an entire year. A hamstring injury at Wimbledon in 2021 will keep her out for the rest of the year.

In the end, Williams won 7 Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, as well as 6 US Open and 3 French Open titles. Only Navratilova (nine Wimbledon champions) has more Grand Slam titles in a single event.

It’s also worth remembering that in 1999 at the age of 17, little sister Serena provided the blueprint for her sister’s success, winning the US Open. Williams is the first African-American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Althea Gibson in 1958.

A year ago, she offered Venus another example.

“It’s like Sydney in ’98,” Venus said in two weeks. “Serena was a top player at the time, trailing 6-1 and 5-0. She was fighting like there was no tomorrow, like it was her last day on earth. After that, I Reconsidered. I’m not such a fighter.

“After that, I also became a fighter. That’s what I got from her game.”

Never one to shy away from drama, Williams gave sold-out audiences a memorable game ahead of her final act. They thanked her with a long standing ovation, which brought her to tears.

Finally, more than three hours later, after Tomljanovic converted his sixth match point, Williams looked a little tired. She finished both sets with a 5-3 lead, but somehow they both eluded her.

When the final forehand hit the net, she approached the net and shook hands with Tomljanovic. She waved to the sides of the court and put her hands on her heart.

“Thank you Dad, I know you’re watching,” Williams said in her on-court interview. “thanks Mom.”

Her voice choked, and the tears flowed faster.

“If it wasn’t for Venus, I wouldn’t be Serena,” she continued. “She’s the only reason Serena Williams exists.

“It’s been an interesting ride.”

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