After announcing her retirement earlier this year, the world of professional tennis has taken a moment to reflect upon the career and legacy of Serena Williams. Williams undoubtedly leaves big shoes to fill in her departure from the game, but she also leaves a lasting legacy that will shape many aspiring athletes as they find their own way on the court.
Growing up in Compton, California, Serena Williams was a star in the making from a young age. Serena and her older sister, Venus Williams, were encouraged by their parents, Oracene Prince and Richard Williams, to tap into their evident athletic potential and further develop their skills through actively playing the game. Their father had a particular passion for tennis that he wished to share with his two daughters. When Serena was four years old, her father began teaching his daughters how to play tennis, subsequently becoming an involved and notoriously strict coach who demanded determination, grit and excellence. Both girls embodied these values and quickly became stellar tennis players throughout their childhood. When Venus reached her teenage years, the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, so that the Williams sisters could attend a tennis academy. In 1995, one year after Venus took the leap, Serena Williams became a professional tennis player.
Serena Williams quickly became a mainstay in the athletic world, attracting attention from fans and critics alike. Regardless of personal opinion, it was nearly impossible to ignore the raw talent, staunch dedication and undeniable prowess that Williams brought to the game. Only four years after she officially became a professional tennis player, Williams won the 1999 U.S. Open. In the same venue, Williams teamed up with her sister, Venus, to win the doubles event — one of fourteen Grand Slam doubles titles that the sister duo would eventually win throughout their professional careers. The pair played well together, encouraging one another to channel their best selves and leave it all on the court. Their sisterly synchronicity was evident in the duo’s performance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, where their victory in the doubles event sent them home with gold medals.
In the years that followed, Serena began to establish herself as a foundational figure in the world of professional tennis. Through her consistent innovation and victory, she was respected as a successful and tenacious athlete. However, beyond establishing herself as a talented tennis player, she dared to challenge the norms that she faced as a female athlete. She broke fashion binaries, fearlessly defeated opponents of both genders and never shied away from adversity. She has been a staunch advocate for women athletes and has consistently promoted feminist ideals like equality, perserverance and revolution. Though she is retiring from the game of tennis, she is leaving a legacy that will endure for years to come.