Looking back at Serena Williams’ top career moments originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The GOAT might be taking her final bow.
Serena Williams said she’s “evolving away from tennis” in an article she wrote for Vogue on Tuesday.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion sits among the likes of Brady, Jordan and Phelps as some of the rarefied few to conquer their sport with dominance and sustained success. She’s undoubtedly changed tennis and women’s sports and is now ready to pursue other projects.
While she is yet to confirm her timeline to “evolve” off the tennis court, most speculation points to her retiring as soon as three weeks from now at the conclusion of the U.S. Open, a fitting bookend to her career.
Here’s a brief look back at the storied career of Serena Williams ahead of what could be her last Grand Slam appearance.
1999 U.S. Open - Williams wins first Grand Slam at age 17
The Williams sisters established themselves as emerging stars throughout their teenage years, but Serena’s breakthrough season came in 1999 when she beat Steffi Graf for her first Grand Slam title. She followed that up several months later with a dominant run through the U.S. Open that ended with her becoming only the second Black woman to win a singles Grand Slam, defeating fellow teenage phenom, Martina Hingis, along the way.
Hingis was two years removed from a victory at the Australian Open that made her the youngest ever Grand Slam Champion at the age of 16. It would take three years for Williams to win her next Grand Slam, but this win laid the groundwork for a hall-of-fame career.
2003 Australian Open - Williams completes the “Serena Slam”
Williams returned atop the leaderboard in epic fashion.
After missing the 2002 Australian Open due to injuries, she stormed back to win the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in a matter of months. Less than six months later, she made it to Roland Garros and capped off an incredible year with the “Serena Slam.” Williams became the fifth woman to complete a calendar Grand Slam.
All four wins came against the same opponent -- her sister, Venus.
2012 London Olympics - Gold in both singles and doubles (with Venus)
Despite owning 14 Grand Slam singles victories by this point, Williams had yet to capture a singles gold medal at the Olympic Games. She arrived in London on the heels of her fifth Wimbledon title and took care of business, winning her first singles gold medal and third doubles gold medal, alongside Venus.
Serena joined Helen Wills Moody and her sister, Venus, as one of only three tennis players to win Olympic golds in both the singles and doubles events.
2015 Wimbledon Championships - Second “Serena Slam”
Over a decade after her dominant 2002 season, Williams proved she still had it.
She found herself backed into a corner on several occasions, but managed to advance past three former No. 1 players. In the finals, she faced Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who had handed Williams one of the worst losses in her career the year before at the Australian Open. Williams completed her redemption tour in a two-set victory.
2013-2016 - Ties Steffi Graf’s record for 186 consecutive weeks at No. 1
Williams came this close to owning the title outright.
Williams was named No. 1 overall on Labor Day of 2015, before losing in the semifinals of the U.S. Open to Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova lost to Angelique Keber in the finals and Kerber claimed the No. 1 overall ranking from Williams. All in a week’s time.
Williams was most recently ranked No. 1 on May 14, 2017, just under 15 years after she debuted in the top spot. She’s occupied the top spot for a total of 319 weeks throughout her career, third to only Martina Navratilova (332) and Graf (377).
Graf retired in 1999, the same year Williams won her first Grand Slam, but the rivalry between the women fueled the sport for much of the past decade.
2016 Wimbledon - Last doubles title with Venus, 14th overall and sixth at All-England Club
Hours after winning her 22nd Grand Slam, bringing her in gridlock with Graf’s record, Williams returned to the court to win her 14th doubles title with sister, Venus.
This was a notable resurgence for the duo who hadn’t won a doubles Grand Slam together since 2012.
2017 Australian Open - Claims Grand Slam record with 23rd win while six weeks pregnant
For many newer fans of the game, this was an indelible moment in the history of William’s career.
After losing her position and streak as the No. 1 overall, no one was quite sure what to expect of Williams at the Australian Open. She came out with force, winning all seven rounds in two sets including a finals victory over, you guessed it…her sister, Venus.
This gave the younger Williams her 23rd Grand Slam in the Open Era, passing Graf in the record books.
The legend of this run only became more sacred when word broke that she was six weeks pregnant at the time.
2018 - Return to tennis, maternal advocacy
Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., in Sept. 2017 and was back on the international stage by mid-2018.
She’s yet to win another Grand Slam since the 2017 Australian Open, but she made back-to-back finals at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019.
In the months after giving birth, Williams opened up about her “near-death” labor experience that involved a pulmonary embolism and the challenge of returning to tennis while breastfeeding and battling postpartum depression.
Her story has become poignant in conversations about the maternal health outcomes of Black women.