Serena Williams recently announced that she will be stepping away from the tennis court in an emotional letter to the world.
Writing for Vogue, the 40-year-old superstar confirmed “the countdown has begun” towards the day where she hangs up her racquet.
The athlete, mother, and businesswoman described this transition as “evolving away” from the sport she has dominated for more than two decades.
For Williams, this was not an easy decision — she said as much in her farewell feature.
In 2017, she won her 23rd Grand Slam title, putting her one away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record. Williams was 35 at the time, with years still ahead of her. It looked to be written in the stars.
However, the elusive 24th Grand Slam kept evading her — it is looking more than likely that the legendary Serena Williams will retire without writing one last piece of history.
While Williams’ Grand Slam count is the highest of any player during the Open Era, she has admitted she wants to equal Court’s all-time tally.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do,” she wrote for Vogue. “But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Grand Slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there.
“I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary.”
Since earning her 23rd major title, Williams reached four Grand Slam finals but fell agonisingly short of the mark on each occasion.
The last time Williams won the title at Wimbledon was back in 2016, when she defended her crown from the year before.
In 2017, she did not compete as she was pregnant with her daughter Olympia. So the following year, she returned ready to take back her place on the throne.
Williams breezed through the first four rounds without dropping a single set, before beating Camila Giorgi and Julia Görges to set up a final clash against Angelique Kerber.
The German got the better of the seven-time Wimbledon champion during a straight sets win and Williams had to settle for second place.
US Open 2018
Straight off the back of her Wimbledon disappointment, Williams brushed aside her opponents, including sister Venus, in the lead up to the infamous 2018 US Open final.
The match was marred with controversy after Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos clashed on multiple occasions.
Williams was given a code violation after the umpire deemed her to be receiving coaching. He also docked her a game for verbal abuse after she called Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” before also issuing a a point penalty for racquet smashing.
Osaka won the match in straight sets to claim her first ever Grand Slam title, but most people will mainly remember this event for the drama between Williams and the umpire.
Williams returned to the All England Lawn Tennis Club final following her 2018 disappointment but a record-equalling Grand Slam title once again slipped from her grasp.
At Wimbledon 2019, Williams not only fell at the final hurdle, but did so in spectacular fashion.
Romania’s Simona Halep produced a stunning performance to blow away the former world number one. She cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win to claim only her second Grand Slam title, causing further frustration for the record-chasing Williams.
“She literally played out of her mind,” a stunned Williams said after the match.
US Open 2019
The last time Williams had the chance to equal Court’s record was three years ago at the US Open.
Apart from her second round result against compatriot Caty McNally, every one of Williams’ wins came from straight sets. She was in excellent form heading into the final.
Up against Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, who had never made it beyond round two of a Grand Slam, the record looked like it was finally going to come home for Williams.
Andreescu was 19 at the time and heavily inexperienced compared to the tennis legend she was preparing to face on the hard court. But she silenced any doubters by storming to a 6-3, 7-5 win to claim her first major title.
Despite being snubbed for a fourth time of a 24th Grand Slam, Williams was full of praise for the rising Canadian star.
“Bianca played an unbelievable match,” she said. “I’m so proud and happy for you, it was incredible tennis out there.”
With retirement now being talked about openly, the queen of the court could call time on her phenomenal career at any moment.
Williams is on the entry list for the US Open but it is thought the tournament is likely to be her last time on court.
Is there room for one last push to reach the record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title?