Serena Williams’ historic tennis career has come to an end, completing the evolution away from tennis she announced in an August op-ed for Vogue. Last Friday Williams played her last game of tennis in the Arthur Ashe Stadium against Ajla Tomljanović.
Any tennis fan or person familiar with the movie “King Richard” probably knows the humble career beginnings of Serena and Venus Williams. The two sisters learned to play tennis on the public courts of Compton, California under the careful instruction of their father, Richard Williams. Beginning her professional career at age 14, Williams won her first major singles title at the 1999 US Open as a 17-year-old. From there: she went on to win at every major tournament multiple times: another five times at the US Open, three times at the French Open, seven times at the Australian Open and seven times at Wimbledon. Altogether she has won a total of 23 major titles, more than any other tennis player in the Open Era – man or woman.
William’s accolades go beyond those 23 major titles, though. According to ESPN, she has collected 858 tour victories, 73 singles titles, an Olympic gold medal and spent a total of 319 weeks at No. 1 in women’s tennis. With her sister, Williams has also won 14 major women’s double titles and three Olympic gold medals.
The impact of Williams, along with her sister, goes beyond just their victories. After an injury took Serena out of the competition in 2010, the only Black female player in the US Open women’s single draw was Venus. In the 2020 US Open, the number of Black women playing for the United States increased to 12 out of 32. Many of today’s young Black players credit the Williams sisters for their interest in the predominantly white sport. Such players include Coco Gauff, Taylor Townsend and Frances Tiafoe.
What’s next for Williams? Her attention now turns to the work of her company Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm she started in 2014 that focuses on health, wellness and athletics. Serena Ventures is one of the few venture capital firms owned by a Black women.
Williams wrote in Vogue that “seventy-eight percent of [Serena Venture’s] portfolio happens to be companies started by women and people of color, because that’s who we are.” She believes that representation matters on and off the court. “It’s important to have women like that who believe in you and push you to think bigger and do bigger,” she said.
Her other plans include expanding her family with husband Alexis Ohanian. Williams noted that her daughter Olympia’s current wish is to have a baby sister. She “feel[s] that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family.”
In the end, Williams’ last run at this year’s US Open was a reminder of who she was as a player throughout her phenomenal career — a fighter. The directors of the US open had a magnificent celebration of Williams’ career after her first round, almost as if expecting her to lose. Instead, William fought through the first round and then the second. She fought valiantly — grunting, sweating, swinging — all the way until her final volley sent the ball into the net for the last time.