At almost 41 years old, the American was eliminated on Friday in the third round of the US Open, after what could be her last match. Serena Williams announced in early August that she would be retiring very soon, without specifying where or when. “Her” Major looks like the perfect exit door and she received a shower of tributes there.
In tears, lip service, Serena Williams announced on Friday, September 3, after her elimination in the third round of the US Open that we would probably never see her again on the tennis courts, where she built her reputation. one of the most prolific careers in all sports.
To the question “are you going to reconsider your decision to retire?”, the 23-time Grand Slam champion replied “I don’t think so, but you never know”. The American had just lost to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic (46th in the world) 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.
We actually never know. But many stars, including some close friends, did not wait to pay him a vibrant tribute to the occasion.
“Champion. Heroine. Legend forever!” tweeted TV star Oprah Winfrey, when former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama greeted “a young girl from Compton” who has become “one of the greatest sportswomen all time”.
“The countdown is on.” It is with these words, mysterious but unambiguous, that Serena Williams, legend of world tennis, had herself announced on August 9 her upcoming retirement, she who will be 41 on September 26.
Saying she wanted to “savor the next few weeks”, she explained her decision: “I want to focus on my role as a mom, my spiritual goals, to discover a new but equally exciting Serena.”
Never the date of his retirement is clearly announced in the long introspective letter from Serena Williams published in Voguebut all signs point to a final US Open final Major of the season on home soil, which is also the site of her first Grand Slam victory in 1999. She has since added 22 more on his list, just one step away from Margaret Court’s record.
Richard, Venus and Serena, the Williams saga
At the origins of the Williams saga, there is the father, Richard. Years before the birth of his daughters Venus and Serena, he discovers the sum that a winner of Roland-Garros wins: 40,000 dollars. A crazy amount for a low-income African-American living in the violence-ridden neighborhood of Compton, near Los Angeles. He decides that his children will be tennis champions.
Venus Williams was born in 1980, Serena Williams the following year. From the age of four, they endure draconian training, improvised by their father, who has never held a racket in his life. The film “The Williams Method”, released in France on 1er December 2021, looks back on this atypical start to his career.
Initially less gifted than her sister, Serena Williams meticulously observes the matches of her eldest, working hard to avoid repeating the same mistakes. She joined the professional circuit in 1997, where she stands out because of her imposing physique. She reached the top after her impressive victory at the US Open in 1999 at only 17 years old, while she also won the doubles tournament with her sister. The following year, they did it again by winning gold at the Sydney Olympics. In total, they will win 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together, the best pair in history, men and women combined.
In 2002, Serena Williams won Roland-Garros, the US Open and Wimbledon, each time beating her sister in the final. Then, in 2003, by winning the Australian Open, still facing her sister, she became the ninth woman in history to conquer the four Grand Slam tournaments. It is the beginning of a long domination in women’s tennis. Serena Williams won 73 titles including 23 Grand Slams in singles.
She is thus the fifth player in history to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in singles and doubles, and the first to win all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in her career in singles and doubles.
Its advantages ? His serve, sometimes hit at over 200 km/h, and his forehand. His confidence too. Serena Williams believes that when she plays her best tennis, no one can beat her. An exploit shows the strength of her mind: she won three Grand Slam tournaments by having saved a match point in the final.
The eternal rebound
The career of Serena Williams, however, has nothing of a long calm river. In 2001, at the American tournament in Indian Wells, when she had to face her sister in the semi-finals, the latter forfeited, triggering the anger of the public, who accused the father of the two players of manipulation for the benefit of the youngest. Serena Williams is booed in the final. The Williams clan accuses the public of racism and boycotts the tournament until 2015.
In 2003-2004, she was absent for eight months after knee surgery. Even if she was then only 21 years old, we doubt that she would play tennis again, Serena Williams seeming monopolized by other centers of interest, fashion or television. In 2010, she slashed her feet walking on broken glass, then in March 2011, a pulmonary embolism nearly cost her her life.
Her various setbacks – and especially the tragedy that struck her family in September 2003 when her half-sister Yetunde was shot and killed in Los Angeles – ultimately made her more human in the eyes of the public, some of whom were tired of seeing her win. A few months before the tragedy, she is whistled at Roland-Garros, she who has always said her love for Paris, where she has an apartment. Her detractors do not imagine that ten years later, trained by the French Patrick Mouratoglou, she would speak in the language of Molière on the central court.
A committed sportswoman
In parallel with her sports career, she became a businesswoman and did not hesitate to take a stand to defend the rights of women and those of the black community. In 2014, she launched the investment fund Serena Ventures, whose mission is to “give opportunities to entrepreneurs in many sectors”. In 2017, she published a column calling for the fight against wage inequalities, whether between men and women, or between whites and blacks.
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She is also committed alongside the Black Lives Matter movement. She also presented herself at Roland-Garros, in March 2018, in a full black suit with a red facing, inspired by the film “Black Panther” featuring the eponymous Marvel hero. An outfit that made headlines, the then president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Bernard Giudicelli, judging it inappropriate. The equipment supplier Nike then published a photo of the player with the following caption: “You can take away her costume from a superheroine, but you cannot take away her superpowers.”
She will also have contributed to normalizing motherhood in the sports career of women. She won her last Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open in 2017, two months pregnant. And while some might have seen the birth of her first child, after a complicated pregnancy and childbirth, as a sign of early retirement, the youngest of the Williams returns. Using her daughter Olympia as additional motivation, she returned to the courts and regained her level, playing four new Grand Slam finals.
“At the level of Michael Jordan”
“She has to do what she wants. She deserves it, after all she has accomplished,” reacted to the announcement of the player’s retirement, John McEnroe, the former American champion, who nevertheless had very harsh words in the past towards Serena Williams. “She no longer needs to play tennis. She is at the level of Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tom Brady. She is one of the greatest sportswomen in history, in all sports, male or female,” said he added.
A sign of its impact on sport, American tennis is already looking for “the new Serena Williams”. Among the two contenders for this honorary crown, “Coco” Gauff, world number 11 at 18, and Emma Raducanu world number 10 and defending champion at the US Open at 19.
“She has clearly revolutionized the game. To dominate to this extent… There is no one else to have dominated to this extent in women’s tennis. (…) Her career is incredible. She has achieved so much. (…) This longevity is something that many players, me in particular, hope to achieve“, had recently declared the latter.
Serena, THANK YOU. It is because of you I believe in this dream. The impact you’ve had on me goes beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you, GOAT! pic.twitter.com/qeNZlC05WJ
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) September 3, 2022
“Serena, THANK YOU. It is thanks to you that I believe in this dream. The impact you have had on me goes beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you, GOAT!” (Best player of all time), tweeted Friday, Cori Gauff.
The New York Major seemed to be the ideal exit door for Serana Williams. “It’s been an incredible journey,” she said, moved, Friday evening.
“Thank you dad, I know you’re watching, thank you mom (who was present in the stands), thank you to all the people who have supported me all this time, my God it’s been decades,” she said. shelled, before totally bursting into tears by evoking his older sister: “I would not be Serena if it had not been for Venus, so thank you Venus”.