Serena Williams graces court one last time

A once-in-a-generation talent who changed women’s sports forever

Serena Jameka Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1981 to Oracene Price and Richard Williams. She began her tennis career at the age of four along with her older sister, Venus. When Williams was nine-years-old, the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where the Williams sisters attended the tennis academy of well-known coach Rick Macci and began playing more competitively.

In 1995, 14-year-old Williams was set to make her professional debut at the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California. After the Women’s Tennis Association banned her from playing due to age restrictions, Williams filed an antitrust lawsuit against the women’s tour. Her parents disagreed with this decision, which eventually led to Williams’ withdrawal from the lawsuit. Yet her determination to be able to play and her no-fear mentality were already quite obvious, even as a teenager.

Eventually, Williams would make her debut, losing in the first round of the Bell Challenge in Quebec. Her professional career wasn’t easy at first, and it took Williams several years to begin winning consistently. But by 1998, she had garnered some attention in the tennis world and ended the year having earned a No. 20 rank in singles and three doubles titles with her sister Venus, including the U.S. National Indoor Championships.

Williams’ impressive record and influence on and off the court have impacted many rising young tennis players of this generation, including the Trinity women’s team. Ruth Hill, current sophomore, spoke about Williams’ influence on her.

“Serena Williams was a role model for me. I always loved watching her play and fight on the court. Her fighting spirit is something that I always strived to have,” Hill said.

In 1999, Williams won her first Grand Slam singles title, the U.S. Open. Though she was obviously talented, determined and had a promising career ahead of her, nobody would have predicted that she would end her career with 22 more Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals and, above all, an irreplaceable legacy and impact on the world of women’s sports.

By 2002, Serena was ranked No. 1 in the world, knocking her sister Venus off the top spot. Serena Williams was becoming a household name, despite injury after injury in the early 2000s. She continued to win tournaments, proving herself through the setbacks and the struggles. Her drive and determination inspired many young tennis players, according to sophomore Olivia Kim.

“She resembles what every young tennis player strives to be: hard-working, determined and successful,” said Kim.

In 2017, she won her 23rd Grand Slam title while two months pregnant. Later that year, she gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Her pregnancy, however, changed everything.
After giving birth, Williams was in severe pain and began to lose feeling in her legs. In 2010, after experiencing frequent blood clots in her lungs, it was discovered that she had a hematoma in her abdomen. A terrified Williams begged the doctors for help. They listened, performing emergency surgery in order to stop the blood clots from fatally reaching her lungs.

This was a turning point in Williams’ life, who had been accustomed to treating her body as a machine that she tweaked every day in order for it to function at extreme levels. Her experience shed light on the physical and emotional toll of pregnancy, and on the standards that women face in the world of sports to sacrifice so much of themselves and their bodies.

​​“If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity,” Williams said shortly after giving birth.

Williams is also heavily invested in feminism, gender equality and other important causes. She used her platform and success to spread messages about never giving up and inspiring young women to reach their potential. Her pure strength on and off the court, in the media and as an athlete had never been seen before and may never be seen again to the same degree. Serena Williams will forever be an icon and an inspiration to female athletes everywhere.

Even though her tennis skills were almost unbeatable, her spirit and determination transcended all those who came before her, impacting the entire sporting community. She will always be remembered for her strength and for believing in herself even when things weren’t going her way.