Serena Williams exited the US Open as one of the greatest ever, but her legacy goes far beyond her titles.

Twenty-three years ago, Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam title here. On Friday, he said goodbye at the same venue, in front of a sold-out crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Thanks, dad, I know you’re watching. Thank you, mom,” Williams said before breaking down in tears during her postgame interview on the court. “Everyone here has been with me for years, decades…

“It’s tears of joy, I guess. I don’t know. And if it wasn’t for Venus, I wouldn’t be Serena, so thank you Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams exists… It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on.”

It was a perfect and fitting finale for one of the sport’s most legendary heroes.

Williams, 40, shared her intention to retire after the US Open in an article in Vogue last month and has since been given a farewell in her tournaments. He admitted he had mixed feelings about the decision and knew it would be difficult to walk away from the sport that had defined most of his life.

“I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next,” she wrote. “I don’t know how I can look at this magazine when it comes out because I know it’s the end of the story that happened in Compton, California, with the little black girl who just wanted to play tennis. This sport has meant so much to me. have given.”

Alongside her older sister Venus, the duo began as young girls with a dream, training on public fields near their home with their father Richard. Today, Serena is one of the most successful athletes of all time and undoubtedly the best tennis player in history.

He started his professional career in 1995 at the age of 14. In 2022, Williams retired with 858 tour wins, 73 singles titles, an Olympic gold medal and 319 weeks at No. 1. With Venus, he won 14 major doubles titles and three Olympic golds. Williams holds the 23 major points in the Open era by a player, male or female.

Roger Federer told the Wall Street Journal in 2018: “[Serena] had a completely different upbringing — I came through Switzerland with the federation, she did it with her father and sister. “That in itself is an amazing story – and then he became one of the best, if not the best, tennis player of all time.”

But wins and records are only part of the story. Despite her unparalleled success, Williams will long be remembered for how she and Venus changed the sport forever.

“The legacy that [Serena] has left behind in her tennis career is something that I don’t think any other player can touch,” Coco Gauff said last month. “I think the legacy he leaves behind in his lifetime is something that can inspire many generations to come.

“For me, I grew up watching him. I mean, that’s the reason I play tennis. Tennis being a predominantly white sport definitely helped a lot because I saw someone who looked like me dominating the game. It made me To believe that I could have mastered it too.”

The wins came quickly for Serena and Venus. The pair won their first Grand Slam doubles title together at the French Open in 1999, then Serena won her first US singles title later that year as a 17-year-old, and stars Kim Clijsters , defeated Conchita Martinez. , Monica Sells, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis.

While her game was still developing and seemingly improving with the game, Serena Williams amazed the world and her peers with what she could do in New York.

“Her athleticism immediately stood out, as did her strength and competitiveness, and the way she handled pressure,” said Cathy Rinaldi, who worked with and played against Serena and Venus as part of the Billie Jean King Cup USA team. The two in Serena’s first US Open doubles match in 1997.

But life on tour was difficult at times for both sisters, two of the few black players at the professional level. Blackman noted that the television commentary during their matches was “not great” and the animosity they experienced was on full display in an infamous incident at Indian Wells in 2001. Dementieva accused Richard of rigging the match between the two sisters to set up a semifinal clash with Serena. The comment came after Venus withdrew before the semi-finals due to a knee injury shortly before the start of the match.

A few days later, when Richard and Venus took their seats to watch Serena play Clusters in the finals, the crowd began to boo loudly. The banter continued throughout the match, with the crowd turning their ire on Serena. The animosity continued even after Serena won the match, and the ugly scene reached a fever pitch when she went to embrace Richard and Venus.

Richard later said he was the target of several racial slurs during the match. Neither sister played in a Public Boycott tournament for more than a decade.

“More than their triumphs and how they dominated, it’s the hardships and obstacles that Serena and Venus faced and overcame that make them icons and pioneers,” Townsend said. For players like myself, Coco, Sloane [Stephens] and Madison [Keys], we didn’t have to deal with a lot because it’s already been done. They faced a lot of ridicule and public shaming, but they fought back. And I just appreciate the things we sometimes take for granted.

“Not only did they give me the opportunity to do what I do, but to be accepted into the sport. Now it’s not perfect and we all still do it in our own way, but it is. It’s very different. “Since when they started.”

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