It’s so hard for us to say goodbye. But, after 27 years of pro tennis, it looks like Serena Williams is really “evolving away.” In a marathon test of wills stretching over three hours against Croatian Australian Ajla Tomljanović at the U.S. Open, Serena came up short—but it can’t be called a loss. Even when most would have given up, she kept fighting, hitting shots against her 29-year-old opponent that defied the fact that she turns 41 on September 26th. It was a performance that put an exclamation behind her goat status.
On court, following the match, she got a bit emotional when thanking her parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price, whose drive and sacrifice was captured in the film King Richard, for which Will Smith won an Oscar for his portrayal of the patriarch. “It all started with my parents, and they deserve everything,” she told the crowd exceeding 72,000.
She got especially teary-eyed when speaking of her sister Venus, who was in the stands. “I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't Venus, so thank you Venus,” she said, as a camera caught Venus unable to suppress her own tears. “She's the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.”
Although her response of “I think so” to a question asking if this was truly the end offers a sliver of hope for her continuing the sport, no one can be mad if this is it. That’s because the glorious ride she began back in 1995 at age 14, winning her very first US Open title in 1999, has been an exhilarating one for us all. Right now, she leaves the game with 23 major tournament wins, the most by any man or woman in the Open Era, playing in four decades. In all, she amassed 858 victories, 73 titles, an Olympic gold medal and spent 319 weeks as the world’s No. 1 player on her own. Playing doubles with sister Venus, as she did for the very first time in four years the night before her exit, they together won 14 major doubles titles and three Olympic gold medals.
Many celebrities, including friend Ciara and her NFL quarterback husband Russell Wilson, NBA basketball player Ben Simmons, and pioneering filmmaker Spike Lee, once again dressed in Ralph Lauren’s Morehouse Collection for his alma mater, were on hand for the trailblazer’s adieu. Other notables who checked in during the week include actresses Zendaya, Laverne Cox, Anika Noni Rose, who sung the National Anthem Monday night, and friend La La Anthony, actor Anthony Anderson who also grew up in Compton, rapper Pusha T, golf legend Tiger Woods, NYC mayor Eric Adams, CBS Mornings anchor Gayle King, and music treasures Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight, among others.
On Twitter, the love for Serena and her “unapologetic greatness” overflowed, with Michelle Obama, Oprah, LeBron James, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tiger Woods among the many sharing their appreciation and awe.
THANKS @serenawilliams YOU’RE GOING OUT SCRAPPING, JUST LIKE YOU CAME IN👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾‼️‼️‼️💯— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) September 3, 2022
“THANKS @SerenaWilliams YOU’RE GOING OUT SCRAPPING, JUST LIKE YOU CAME IN,” tweeted Samuel L. Jackson, using several emojis.
Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) September 3, 2022
How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time.
I'm proud of you, my friend—and I can't wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents. pic.twitter.com/VWONEMAwz3
“Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!” tweeted our forever First Lady Michelle Obama. “How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time. I’m proud of you, my friend---and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.”
Coco Gauff, who won her third-round showdown against Madison Keys and competes on, shared an emotional tweet filled with gratitude for how Serena has inspired her and paved the way.
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 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!”