Serena Williams: The highs and lows of 23-time grand-slam champion’s career

From winning her maiden grand slam title as a 17-year-old, Williams has rarely been out of the spotlight

Eleanor Crooks
Tuesday 09 August 2022 15:54 BST
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'I have to move on from tennis': Serena Williams announces intention to retire after US Open

Serena Williams has announced her imminent retirement from tennis.

The 23-time grand-slam champion won her first singles match for more than a year at the National Bank Open in Toronto on Monday evening but has revealed in a first-person piece for Vogue that she has decided to end her career.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she wrote.

Williams has committed to playing at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week as well as the US Open later this month, and it appears that will be her final tournament.

From winning her maiden grand slam title as a 17-year-old, Williams has rarely been out of the spotlight, and her career has been full of exceptional successes but also a number of difficult times.

Here we look at some of the American’s highs and lows.

Highs

1999 US Open

Williams beat sister Venus to a grand slam title in New York a few weeks short of her 18th birthday. The teenager went on a tremendous run, winning three-set battles against Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martinez, Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport before beating world number one Martina Hingis in the final.

Serena Slam

Williams had to wait nearly three years to win another slam title, but when she did, she swept all four. Her run started with victory at the French Open in 2002 and ended when she lifted the Australian Open trophy the following January, with all the finals bringing victory over Venus. The achievement, which also saw Williams become world number one for the first time, was dubbed the ‘Serena Slam’.

Australian Open 2007

Williams arrived in Melbourne ranked 81. Attention focused on her physical condition and attitude while Nike threatened to drop her if she did not perform well. She was close to defeat against Nadia Petrova in round two and Shahar Peer in the quarter-finals but reached the final, where she lost just three games to Maria Sharapova.

Golden 2012

The spur for a remarkable second half of the season was Williams’ first defeat in the opening round of a grand slam at the French Open. She subsequently began working with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou and claimed her fifth Wimbledon title, won a first Olympic gold medal in singles - losing just one game to Sharapova in the final - before reclaiming the US Open title and winning the WTA Finals.

2017 Australian Open

The most prolific five-year period of Williams’ career ended with a 10th slam title, and 23rd overall, in Melbourne. Williams again defeated her sister Venus in the final but the reason for why this was such a special achievement only became clear three months later when the American revealed she was expecting a baby, and had been eight weeks pregnant at the time of the final.

Williams celebrating winning the 2017 Australian Open (AFP via Getty Images)

Lows

2001 Indian Wells

Serena was due to face Venus in the finals of the major WTA Tour event held close to their childhood home in California. Fans were unhappy that Venus withdrew just before the match and booed Serena during the final against Clijsters. Venus and father Richard, sitting in the stands, said they were racially abused. Serena did not play at the tournament again until 2015 while Venus returned in 2016.

2006 Troubles

After losing in the third round of the Australian Open, Williams claimed she was battling a knee injury but the American later revealed she was suffering from depression and was seeing a therapist. She did not play a match for six months, returning in August with her ranking down at 139. She needed a wild card to enter the US Open and finished the season ranked 95.

2009 US Open

Having been given a racket abuse warning after losing the first set of her semi-final against Clijsters, Williams was called for a foot fault on a second serve trailing 5-6 and 15-30 in the second set, thus giving her opponent a match point. Williams reacted angrily towards the line judge who had made the call, swearing and threatening to shove a tennis ball down her throat. She received a point penalty and therefore lost the match. She was fined a record 82,500 dollars (approximately £65,000) and put on a two-year probation.

2010 Foot injury

Williams won her fourth Wimbledon title without dropping a set but the celebrations turned sour when she stepped on broken glass at a restaurant in Munich. Surgery followed and, more seriously, pulmonary embolisms that could have been life-threatening. Williams did not play a match for nearly a year and suffered from pulmonary embolisms again after giving birth to daughter Olympia.

2018 US Open

Having returned to the sport following childbirth, Williams reached her second consecutive slam final in New York. However, the match against Naomi Osaka turned into one of the sport’s most controversial occasions as Williams clashed with umpire Carlos Ramos. Having been furious to be given a warning for coaching from the stands by Mouratoglou, Williams received a point penalty for smashing her racket and then a game penalty after calling Ramos a thief and a liar. Williams, who accused Ramos of sexism, was fined 17,000 dollars (approximately £13,000).

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