On June 14, Serena Williams shocked the world with an announcement: She was going to compete at Wimbledon. Although Williams’ name has long been a centerpiece for women’s tennis tournaments, her injuries and the decision to focus on other commitments in recent years has significantly dwindled the likelihood of her appearing on the court for major matches. In fact, because she hadn’t played a singles match in more than a year before arriving at Centre Court this summer, some fans believed she had quietly retired from the sport during her hiatus.
However, despite the rumors, and the fact she is now 40 years old, Williams was adamant that she wanted to remain active in the sport she once dominated with ease. With this being said, when she appeared at Wimbledon this June, she was rusty and “far below her imperious best,” losing in the first round in a grueling three-hour match against Harmony Tan. It is worth noting that since 2017, Williams hasn’t won a major championship title, and while she has had streaks of dominance, her power and agility have grown weaker over time.
Despite Williams being off her game, fans and peers alike were thrilled to see her playing. As she left the court, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation. Clearly, regardless of Williams’ performance in a given match, her name and reputation precede her, and demand respect.
“There are a number of things Serena Williams could be doing tonight,” said journalist Uche Amako. “She has a great family, millions in the bank, 23 grand slams and successful businesses. But here she is, grinding and hustling for every ball on Centre Court. What an athlete.”
Since her professional tennis debut in 1995, Serena Williams’ presence in the world of sports has been astonishingly impactful. After winning her first Grand Slam singles title at the 1999 US Open at only 17 years old, Williams has continued on to win a total of 73 career singles titles, 23 doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles. Among these wins have been a remarkable 23 Grand Slam titles, which is the most of any female tennis player in the competitive modern era.
Her net worth is also estimated at more than $260 million –– a figure that ranks among the highest net worth of all tennis players. She has made an impact on activism, speaking out about her struggles as both a black athlete and a female athlete, as well as the intersection of the two.
Williams has also made a grand impact on pop culture. Close friends with Beyonce, Williams made a powerful cameo in the music video for the song “Sorry” in 2016. Just this past year, she assisted in the production of the Oscar-nominated film “King Richard,” a biopic about her father, Richard Williams.
She has also started a beautiful family with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Olympia (named after the Olympics, of course).
Needless to say, Williams has impacted the world of sports as a whole and American culture forever. Yet, she still is hungry to play more tennis. This in and of itself is what allows Williams to maintain her fandom and respect as an athlete.
And according to Williams, she isn’t done with her career just yet.
“The US Open was the place where I won my first Slam, it’s super special. There’s definitely a lot of motivation to get better and play at home,” Williams said at her press conference following her loss last Tuesday.
The upcoming 2022 US Open could be the last tournament Williams ever plays in her star-studded career. Regardless of whether it is or isn’t, however, she will always be famous for her endless passion for the sport, and her impact on and off the court.