Serena Williams’s tennis career comes to a close, but her legacy lives on.
BY KATIE MESSNER ’24
While many students were watching the football Bears take on Pickerington North, tennis superstar Serena Williams was facing off in what would be the last match of her tennis career.
Past the three-hour mark, Williams played against Ajla Tomljanović, a 29-year-old tennis star from Croatia, in an emotional and rambunctious match, ending Williams’s effort for her 24th Grand Slam. It was the most watched tennis match in the network’s history with 4.6 million viewers, according to ESPN.
Williams began strong, leading for the first part of the set. Her determination was fierce. However, Tomljanović pulled through with sheer strength and came back to win the first set 7-5. The second set ended with Serena’s neck-to-neck, fiery victory, 7-6.
In the third match, exhaustion crept in as the clock ticked away to three hours. Tomljanović commanded the court with a large lead, with Williams fighting fiercely to stay in it and making some remarkable saves. However, Tomljanović won 6-1, elevating her to victory.
Afterwards, Williams gave a tearful speech as the crowd watched and cheered.
“I thank everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side, so many years, decades. Oh my gosh, literally decades,” Williams said. “It all started with my parents and they deserve everything.”
Williams’s father, Richard Williams, played a large role in her tennis career, training her and her sister, Venus, from an early age and pushing her on the court.
“These are happy tears,” Williams said. “It’s been a fun ride.”
With 23 Grand Slams, 367 match wins and 73 career singles titles in her belt, she has had an incredibly impressive career. She has broken records, including the most Grand Slams in the Open Era, and inspired a generation of tennis players to come.
In an article written by Williams for Vogue, Williams announced her retirement from tennis at 40 years old. “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving from tennis,” Williams wrote. “I never wanted to choose between tennis and a family. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I would be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity… if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”
Williams has a daughter, Olympia, and was pregnant when she won her 23rd grand slam.
“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,” Williams told Vogue.
Williams has been outspoken about her journey, empathizing with many women throughout the world.
In 2014, Williams created Serena Ventures, an investment company after she was told that “less than 2 percent of all [venture capital] money went to women.” She realized “that someone who looks like me needs to start writing the big checks.” Now, Serena Ventures has invested in 16 companies and added their “First male associate to their all-female business, who Williams considers a “diversity hire.”
Not only is Williams a tennis legend, but a mother, sister, wife and an advocate for body positivity, equal pay for all women athletes and equal rights on and off the court.
“I’d like to think that, thanks to me, women athletes can be themselves,” Williams said. “They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.”