A Look at Serena Williams’ Career After Her Loss at Wimbledon
Serena Williams lost in three sets to Wimbledon newcomer Harmony Tan, 5–7, 6–1, 6–7 (7–10) in her opening match at the Open Championships in London. The loss may be the last time that Williams, 40, ever plays at the oldest Grand Slam event. As her career nears its end, it is a good time to look back at how she became one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Williams’ Rise to Stardom
Serena Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, on September 26, 1981, but her family moved to Compton, California when she was young. She began playing tennis in Compton at the young age of 5, and made her professional debut at 14 in 1995. The next year, she did not play professionally, but in 1997 Williams broke into the top 100 rankings at #99. The very next year she entered the top 20 for the first time. She was even more successful in mixed doubles competition, as she won both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open mixed events with her partner Maksim Mirnyi.
In 1999, Serena Williams entered the world top 5 for the first time, finishing the year at #4. She won her first Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open, defeating Martina Hingis in straight sets. Partnered with her sister, Venus, the duo won both the French Open and U.S. Open women’s doubles titles. These would be the first of 14 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles the Williams sisters would capture through 2016. The following year, Serena Williams battled injuries and failed to win any Grand Slam titles. The Williams sisters did win the Gold Medal at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the first of her four overall gold medals.
In 2001, Serena reached a Grand Slam final only once, at the U.S. Open, but she lost to sister Venus, the first time two sisters had played in a Slam final in over 100 years. In 2002, Serena Williams really hit her stride, finishing the year ranked number one in the world and winning three Grand Slam titles (French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open). Amazingly, Serena Williams’ opponent in all three Slam finals was her sister Venus. Two more Slam titles followed the next year (Australian and Wimbledon), again with both finals won over her sister.
More Success, Injuries, and Motherhood
Starting in late 2003, Serena Williams suffered a series of injuries that slowed her down considerably for about three years. She had to miss events regularly due to injury and spent months recuperating from various surgeries. In 2008, she rebounded to reach three Slam finals in women’s singles, winning two with her loss being to her sister at Wimbledon. In each of the next two years she won two Slam titles, running her total Slam victories to 13.
Serena Williams returned to dominance of the women’s singles scene from 2012 to 2015 when she won an astounding eight Slam titles out of a possible 16. She finished first in the world for three straight years starting in 2013.
In 2017, Serena had her first child, a girl, with her husband Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. Since 2016, Williams has slowed down considerably. She has won only two Grand Slam women’s singles titles, although she reached the finals in six other events, most recently at the 2019 U.S. Open. This last victory gave Williams a total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, putting her second all-time behind Australia’s great Margaret Court, who won 24 titles. Her 33 total Grand Slam finals appearances are second only to Chris Evert’s total of 34.
A Desire to Compete in the U.S. Open
The end may not be in sight just yet for Serena Williams, though. After her Wimbledon exit she expressed her desire to compete in this year’s U.S. Open, set to begin on August 29. “When you’re at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam, is something that’s always super special,” Williams said. “Your first time is always special. There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”
She has already demonstrated her ability to overcome injuries and adversity to return to the top of the tennis world. It would be too soon to count her out now, even at age 40 and five years removed from her last Slam singles title. Her fantastic career is winding down, but she seems to want to continue to play as long as she can. If this year is really her last in the sport, she can retire with the knowledge that she is one of the greatest tennis players, male or female, to ever play the sport.