Serena Williams is the name most synonymous with Women’s Sport- the most successful female tennis player of the modern era, the most prize money of any woman in the modern era and undoubtedly one of the finest athletes of any era in any sport full stop.
Her career has been so illustrious, that to pick merely 10 defining moments has proved rather troublesome. In truth, Serena’s list of achievements and records are so vast, there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to this specifically. Nonetheless, from Melbourne to motherhood to meltdowns, here is our list of the 10 moments that have shaped Serena Williams’ tennis career so far.
1. Her first Grand-Slam Win 1999
1999 had proven a mixed year for Serena up until the U.S Open. The first half of the calendar had seen Williams climb into the top 10 of the rankings for the first time, but defeat in the third round of the French Open and withdrawal from Wimbledon through injury had set the tone for an underwhelming season. This changed, however, when Williams stormed to the U.S Open title, defeating defending champion Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis in the final to become only the second African-American woman to win a singles Grand-Slam. To add to the enormity of the achievement, Williams also won the doubles tournament at Flushing Meadows that very same year.
2. The All-Williams Final
The Williams sisters rivalry is one of the most fascinating in the whole of sport. 30 singles Grand-Slams between them, they have met one another in nine major finals in total. Whilst Serena has won seven of these meetings, their first encounter in a major final came in 2001 at the U.S Open where Venus won the bragging rights. This was the first time two sisters had met in a slam-final and was met with widespread media attention and worldwide anticipation. Venus had won three of the last five majors, but could her younger sister topple her on the grandest stage? It proved otherwise that night, but from that point onwards, it was Serena who had the upper hand.
3. The Serena Slam 2002-2003
The Serena Slam was the name dubbed by the press following Serena’s four consecutive Grand Slam titles, starting with the 2002 French Open, through to the 2003 Australian Open. The most remarkable part about this feat was that all her victories in these respective finals came against her sister Venus. 2002 was also remarkable for Serena in that she finished the year as the World number one, the first African-American to do this since Althea Gibson in 1958.
4. The U.S Open 2004
Serena was the golden girl in tennis by 2004. She had completed the career Grand Slam, held the world number one ranking and was evidently on the path to greatness. The 2004 U.S Open proved, however, that she was not invincible and not immune to her fair share of controversy either. During her quarter-final against Jennifer Capriati, a number of line calls went against Williams which led to a confrontation with line judge Mariana Alves. Williams lost the match, and Alves would not officiate for the rest of the tournament.
5. Return to form 2007
For all her success at the start of her career, the period of 2004-2007 was a tough one for Williams. By the time she reached the 2007 Australian Open, she had fallen outside the top 100, having sat out five of the previous 13 major tournaments. Persistent injuries had also been a problem and Wiliams was supposedly told by Nike that they would consider dropping her unless her performances stepped up. They needn’t worry though, as Williams overcame a tough draw to topple Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the final. This was not only a defining moment in Serena’s resurgence to the top but also revenge for the loss Sharapova had inflicted on Williams in 2004.
6. That foot fault 2009
More controversy at the U.S Open arose when Williams was deemed to have foot-faulted by the umpire in her semi-final encounter with Kim Klijsters. This resulted in a foot fault which ended the match and caused Serena to launch a foul-mouthed tirade at the umpire. She was fined over $80,000 for her outburst and has conceded in years gone by that she used to have a real temper.
7. Olympic singles Gold
Serena had won virtually everything there was to win by 2012. Singles Grand-Slams, doubles Grand-Slams, tour finals. The only honour to allude to her at this point was the Olympic singles Gold medal. In 2012 though, Williams duly completed the career Golden Slam by dispatching her arch-rival Maria Sharapova 6-0 6-1 on centre-court at Wimbledon.
8. The Australian Open 2017
In 2017, Serena won her seventh Australian Open by defeating her sister Venus, the last encounter between the two in a major final. This was her 23rd Grand-Slam in total and her latest as well, leaving her just one short of the all-time record. The most remarkable thing about this achievement was her announcement on April 19th 2017 that she was 20 weeks pregnant. As the congratulations poured in, it dawned on people that this meant she must’ve been at least eight weeks pregnant during her Australian Open triumph.
9. U.S Open Meltdown 2018
Williams' history of outbursts at the U.S Open continued in 2018, during her final against Naomi Osaka. After Williams received a code violation for receiving coaching and then a penalty point for racquet abuse, Serena called the umpire a “liar” and a “thief.” She has subsequently docked a game and accused the umpire of sexism, affirming that a man would never have received such treatment in the same circumstances. The ITF in response to the accusations, supported chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, claiming he acted within the guidelines of the law, however many were quick to support Serena and commend her courageous comments on social media.
10. Auckland Open 2020
After losing multiple slam-finals since her return after pregnancy, Williams finally won her first title since becoming a mother this year when she defeated Jessica Pegula in the final of the Auckland Open. By winning a tournament in 2020, Serena also created history by becoming the first woman to win a professional tennis tournament in four separate decades- the 1990’s, 2000’s, 2010’s and now the 2020’s.
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