Serena Williams hangs up her racket

Serena Williams hangs up her racket The post Serena Williams hangs up her racket appeared first on WS Chronicle.

Serena Williams hangs up her racket

In my lifetime there have been several all-time great athletes in different sports, but if you think about it, no one has been more dominating and left a more lasting impression than Serena Williams has in women’s tennis. Serena Williams’ career is over after she lost in three sets to Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the U.S. Open.

Williams announced in an essay last month that the U.S. Open would likely be her last tournament as she wanted to pursue other interests outside of tennis, such as having another child. She did not describe it as retirement but instead preferred to use the word “evolution.”

Williams was celebrated throughout the tournament, starting after her first-round match win. Gayle King hosted a ceremony that featured a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey and a tribute from Billie Jean King.

“Thank you for showing us what it means to come back and for never, ever backing down,” said Winfrey. “Thank you for changing the face of the game, for inspiring the next generation. Thank you for thinking outside the lines and encouraging us to evolve. Thank you for showing us how to love the sport, and for always loving us back.”

Serena fought hard during her third-round match, fighting off several match points in the second set to finally win a tiebreaker and force a third set. It seems she emptied the tank and had little left for the third set. If this is indeed the final time we see Williams on the court, she displayed the talent, will and determination that us fans have come to love about her.

“Thank you daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks mom,” said Williams during her post match on-court interview with ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez. “Everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side, for so many years, decades …

“These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know. And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so that you, Venus.  She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed … It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on.”

I wrote in a previous article a few years ago that it would be a sad day when Serena Williams decided to call it quits. Serena and Venus were a big part of why I began watching women’s tennis over two decades ago. At that time, there were not many Black women doing well on the tour, so when those two began stealing headlines, I immediately became a fan.

Back then, you could see the talent that Serena possessed, but I never would have imagined that she would win 23 major titles, which is the most by any player in the Open era and only trails Margaret Court (24) for the most all-time. Throughout her career, Williams won four Olympic gold medals, 73 career singles titles, 16 major doubles and mixed doubles titles, and spent 319 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world.

Beyond what she was able to accomplish on the court, Williams has inspired an entire generation of young women to play the sport of tennis. I am not sure we would see young stars like Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys or Naomi Osaka, without Williams. I am sure Williams has inspired non-Black athletes as well.  

“I think that her legacy is really wide, to the point where you can’t even describe it in words,” Osaka said of Williams.

“She changed the sport so much; she’s introduced people that have never heard of tennis into the sport and I think I’m a product of what she’s done. I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, her whole family. I’m very thankful to her.”

Gauff moved on to the fourth round with a straight set win over Keys last Friday night. Gauff stated she learned how to handle herself with poise and confidence by watching Williams.

“I feel like Serena taught me that,” said Gauff. “She never settled for less. I can’t remember a moment in her career or life that she settled for less. I think that’s something I took from her. As a person, I’m growing into being an adult and learning how to handle things now with the media and tennis and everything. I’m trying to learn to not settle for less.”

Serena seemed a bit taken aback with all of the gratitude from the younger players on the tour. I don’t think she has had the opportunity to truly take in how much she has meant to the women’s tour and the impact on the next generation of tennis stars.

“I don’t think I’ve even taken a moment to realize any impact. I understand it, but I don’t really meditate or think about it,” said Serena.

“I’ll have plenty of time soon to do all of that. I just am so grateful that they see that. I can see it, too, but I don’t overthink about it. I’m still here for the time being, just enjoying it.

“I feel grateful that I can have that impact. I never thought I would have that impact, ever. I was just a girl trying to play tennis in a time where I could develop this impact and be a voice. It was just so authentic ‘cause I do what I do, and I just do it authentically me. I think people could really relate to that.”

I put Williams in the similar category as Tiger Woods because they were able to excel in sports that are not dominated by African Americans. It was a point in time, like with Woods, that I felt Williams had a chance to win every single major tournament she entered. She was that dominant.

She did not rule out the possibility of her playing in future tournaments when she was interviewed after her third-round defeat. That would be great for all fans to see Serena in a couple tournaments next year, starting with the Australian Open. I would love to see Serena catch Court and win her 24 titles, but even if she does not, her legacy as the best women’s player to ever do it is already cemented in my mind.

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