PRESS BOX: Serena Williams, a legend retires

Serena Williams smiling during her match during the 2020 U.S. Open. Photo by Andrew Henkelman

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor 

Serena Williams, one of the most decorated and accomplished athletes of all time, bid the tennis world farewell after Ajla Tomljanović defeated her in the third round of the U.S. Open. 

The legendary athlete penned a farewell to the tennis world in a Vogue magazine piece. 

“I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words,” Williams stated. “You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.” 

Williams’s legacy and list of accomplishments back her up, as she accumulated many awards. Williams has four Olympic gold medals, six U.S. Open titles, 14 major doubles titles, 23-time major championships, 73 career titles, 367 major match wins and has spent 186 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1, according to ESPN.

James Blake, an ESPN tennis commentator, said Williams is one of the greatest athletes of all time in a segment on ESPN.

“I’m putting her in the category of G.O.A.T. athlete of all time. No qualifiers, not female, not tennis player. She’s up there with [Michael] Jordan, [Tiger] Woods and [Wayne] Gretzky,” Blake said. 

Longevity is another reason why Williams is not only one of the greatest tennis players, but one of greatest athletes ever. Williams, who is 40 years old, has dominated the sport since beginning her professional career in 1995 as a 14-year-old. Not only has Williams taken charge over the sport of tennis, she has revolutionized it by being a Black woman. 

Williams has become the face of a predominantly white sport. White players make up 78% of all tennis players, while 6.8% of all tennis players are Black or African American, according to job career website Zippia.

Being dominant and Black in tennis has not been easy for Williams, as facing discrimination and disrespectful language has been the norm for the superstar. Williams said how the discrimination has affected her everyday life in comparison to her sister in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

“People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different to Venus [Williams]: she was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular — and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different,” Williams said.

Williams former tennis coach Rick Macci said in an interview that he saw the potential in Williams, along with her sister Venus Williams. 

“I went up to Richard, and I said ‘Let me tell you something because there’s more about Venus [Williams],’” Macci said. “I said, ‘You got the next female Michael Jordan on your hand,’ and he put his arm around me, and he goes, ‘Oh no brother, man, I got the next two.’”

Williams stated in her Vogue piece that she hopes to become known as more than a tennis player, but someone who helped the next era of tennis. 

“I’d like to think that I went through some hard times as a professional tennis player so that the next generation could have it easier,” Williams stated. “Over the years, I hope that people come to think of me as symbolizing something bigger than tennis.”

Williams has done that. She rose from the streets of Compton, California to achieve gold trophies and awards all around the world. In a world where the American dream does not exist, Williams has made that possible. She made it possible for other younger Black generations to see someone like them achieve greatness.

Thank you, Serena. You have become bigger than tennis, thank you.

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