The Legacy of Serena Williams


Every so often, an athlete comes along that is not just superior. An athlete who is not just the best at their sport, but so dominant that they transcend the sport itself and become a phenomenon. One such athlete is Serena Williams, and this past month her two-decade-long ownership over the sport of women’s tennis came to an end with her retirement. Though her departure certainly leaves a hole in the tennis world, her influence will continue to affect players and fans for as long as the sport is played. As her storied career comes to an end, let’s take a look back at the force of nature that was Serena Williams. 


In 1995, a young girl from Saginaw, Michigan entered her first professional tennis tournament She won just two games and was eliminated from the qualifying round. This may sound unremarkable, but this girl was 14-year-old Serena Williams. Facing professional competition as a freshman in high school. But, this was not the last the world would see of her. She was just getting started. 


Two years later, with a global rank of 304, Williams at 16 years old defeated first the 7th ranked, then the 4th ranked female tennis players on the planet in the Cup Chicago. Though she was ultimately eliminated in the second round, the message was clear – there was a new dynasty entering the tennis world. And dominate she did – as of her last match on September 2nd, 2022, Serena has won roughly 84% of her career professional matches. Considering that number is insane – over hundreds of matches, against the greatest competition on the planet, Williams on average won 8 of every 10 contests. No one could touch her.


And now, 4 Olympic gold medals, 319 weeks ranked number one in the world, one record for the most grand slam wins of all time, and 73 career titles later, Serena is ready to call it a day. After 27 years, and probably the most storied tennis career in history, it’s hard to say she hasn’t earned it. But with all her accomplishments, it’s easy to forget just how difficult the road has been. 


While teenage tennis phenom seems like a dream come true, even from day one she has faced extreme prejudice. From the very beginning, the star was met with racism, sexism, and general dismissal by the media. In her second doubles world title, a sports analyst was fired for saying she and her sister “belonged in National Geographic.” And this is no isolated incident – dozens of times Serena (and her sister) have been alienated by analysts, commentators, and in one instance even other players. This kind of marginalization is incredibly difficult to deal with, which only makes how dominant Williams was throughout her career that more impressive. Though now she is met with general praise, especially now that she’s hanging up her racket, there’s no denying the hardship she experienced to get here. 


In retirement, Serena Williams leaves behind a legacy as arguably the greatest player to ever touch a tennis court. From quite literally the moment she was eligible, she played and dominated at the highest level. Along with Usain Bolt for track and field, and Micheal Phelps for the sport of swimming, in the past two decades she is up there with the few athletes who can claim complete dominance over their respective fields. Tennis loses an icon and a force of nature with her retirement, but the impact and legacy she leaves behind will live on in the game forever.