With the U.S. Open officially over, it means Serena Williams’ retirement is official too. What more can be said about Serena Williams? She is undeniably one of the greatest athletes of all-time, and we got to see a brilliant career in our lifetime. She is a fashion icon and incredibly skilled entrepreneur. And to give a tribute to Serena’s pivotal career, let’s take a look at her biggest moments on and off the court.
1. Chicago’s breakout star
In 1997, rising superstars in tennis, Venus and Serena Williams, were unstoppable and giving a new definition to what it meant to be in women’s tennis. Chicago’s Ameritech Cup served as the place where Serena reached the semifinals, being defeated by Lindsay Davenport and ranking 304. Her performance officially put her on the map.
2. The first Serena Slam
Venus and Serena played each other often. In the early years of Serena’s career, she was often put in her sister’s shadow. But at the French Open in 2002, Serena faced her sister—and won, earning her inaugural French Open win, and serving as the jumping off point for her first Serena Slam.
What is the Serena Slam? Oh, only winning all four Grand Slam major titles in a row. Which she earned after defeating Venus again at Wimbledon, and again at the Australian Open.
3. Indian Wells boycott
Serena has always been vocal when it comes to speaking out against racism, from supporting Black Lives Matter, to expressing how unwelcoming the hugely white and privileged tennis community was to her and Venus.
In 2001, at the California Indian Wells tournament, Richard Williams was accused of fixing the match after his daughter Venus had to withdraw because of an injury. So when it was Serena’s turn to play in the final 2 days later, she was booed and jeered at for every error.
Not only that, but Richard and Venus were experiencing severe racism from the audience as they watched.
As a result, the sisters refused to return to the event for 14 years. Serena’s said that she only returned because she noticed a change in the overall culture of tennis and how racism is handled and openly condemned. In 2015, she was welcomed with deafening applause and support. “Together we have a chance to write a different ending,” she recalls.
4. Serena’s first Grand Slam
Just the year after her breakout, Serena was competing in Grand Slams. And in 1999, she came out on top against the world’s number one player, Martina Hingis in the U.S. Open. This victory cemented Serena as a true talent in the tennis world. At just age 16, no less.
Coming off of a pulmonary embolism from a blood clot that led to her almost losing her life, Serena had to miss the first half of the season. By that point, her chance for a Grand Slam diminished—she had to withdraw from the French Open because of her health. But don’t worry, that didn’t stop our star.
By the season’s end, at 31, she was sitting at the world number one spot again, for the third time in her life. (And somehow, the oldest one in women’s tennis history.)
In 2015, after taking the Wimbledon trophy home, winning Grand Slam #4 was a near-superhuman feat. That’s right, Serena made history again. She was unstoppable in the mid-2010s, even after her health concerns, winning her second Serena Slam in 2015. And if you’re not convinced she’s the GOAT yet, we still have more proof coming your way.
7. The Olympics
She also won gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics! (The latter, beating out Maria Sharapova.) Her win cemented her as the second tennis player in history to obtain the Golden Slam. Meaning, she won all four titles plus Olympic gold.
First in singles, then in doubles with Venus the next day. Her grand total of gold medals is 4, same as Venus (the most of any tennis player). It’s almost overwhelming how amazing she is.
8. Pushing the boundaries of fashion
A denim mini and bejeweled tank top. A floral two-piece. Tie-dye, glitter, and color block dresses. Custom catsuits. Motorcycle jacket and leather boots. Tulle performance skirt. A blazer and shorts — these are all show-stopping looks Serena has competed (mostly won, let’s be serious here) in.
Serena has always pushed the boundaries of fashion, even with the physically demanding sport.
While no stranger to being a fan of high fashion, Serena stuns on and off duty—let’s not forget some of her custom Gucci looks for the Met Gala, and sitting next to the Vogue EIC herself at Fashion Week. Serena has helped transform what it means to look like a world champion. And personally, I can’t get over that denim mini.
9. Starting a fashion line
Having always been in love with fashion, it should come as no surprise that Serena’s started her own fashion line. Debuted at NYFW in 2019, S by Serena definitely encompasses its tagline of strong, sexy, and sophisticated. The expansive line has dedicated youth options with bright colors and Gen Z-style typography.
But don’t be fooled, the adult-style clothing doesn’t forget Serena’s love of bright colors and form-fitting material. Prints and sets included, anyone can tell that Serena’s touch is in every piece of clothing. Her background of high fashion is imported into every piece.
10. Serena Williams Design Building
Nike signed Serena during her tennis career, and this past year, the brand unveiled the Serena Williams Design Building, dedicated to re-envisioning athletic clothing. The expansive building sits on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, and is home to 1,000 designers who will continue to put new spins on what athletic wear will look like in the future.
The building, inspired by nature and Williams’ journey throughout her career, is said to be the premiere location for the Serena Williams Design Crew, the apprentices tasked with bringing the star’s athleisure line with the brand to life.
So, after 23 titles, a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the tennis field, and becoming an entrepreneur and parent, Serena Williams is actually just getting started. These are just the highlights of her career thus far, and we can’t wait to see where she goes next.
Photo via Getty