Serena Williams’ career has been defined by six moments (so far)
Serena Williams returned to tennis for the first time since winning the 2017 Australian Open on Thursday night in Indian Wells. Williams, 36, is now a mother, and she is about to embark on the next chapter of her incredible, record-breaking life. Here are her top 15 career moments, prepared with the assumption that she’ll be adding to the list shortly.
1. The all-Williams U.S. Open final (2001)
On a gorgeous night in September, when Venus and Serena Williams met in the finals of the US Open, all the forecasts, conjecture, and projections came together. It was the tournament’s first-ever primetime women’s final, and it was met with Super Bowl-like excitement. Venus had won three of the previous five majors and was cruising through her section of the draw. In the semifinals, Serena beat No. 1 Hingis to set up the ideal clash.
It’s been very simple to take the Venus/Serena rivalry for granted over the last 20 years since we’ve gotten accustomed to it. A step back is often necessary to grasp how beautiful the entire story is.
2. Grand Slam, interrupted (2015)
Serena became the first player to win the first three legs of the Slam since Steffi Graf did it 27 years ago, and she also won her second Serena Slam at Wimbledon. However, there was a broader purpose in mind. Serena’s victory at the US Open would give her the Grand Slam, the real one, and add another incredible chapter to her already legendary career.
All that stood between Serena and the Grand Slam after the first 125 matches of the tournament were two 30-something Italian journeywomen. Roberta Vinci, an unseeded player who had never reached a Slam quarterfinal and had only gotten past the third round in three of her 43 majors, was up first.
3. Pain and forgiveness at Indian Wells (2001 and 2015)
Serena Williams and Venus Williams were expected to meet in the semifinals of Indian Wells, the second-largest tournament in the United States, in 2001. They were just starting out in their careers, and their lacklustre meetings had reeked of match-fixing allegations. (In this case, their father is said to have manipulated the strings to ensure that both of his daughters achieved maximum popularity.) The fans were appropriately enraged when Venus withdrew from the competition due to tendinitis just minutes before her match against Serena. It didn’t matter whether Richard was acting as a puppet master or not; the audience had anticipated to watch the most famous female athletes compete, but instead got nothing. It was understandable to be frustrated.
4. The foot fault (2009)
Serena Williams was called for a controversial foot fault in a tight semi-final against Kim Clijsters and went on a rant that made John McEnroe blush. “I swear to God, I’m [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and push it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that?” the 27-year-old said, turning toward the offending lineswoman. “I swear to God,” I say. Serena was given a point penalty, which ended the match (the foot fault had given Clijsters match point) and set off a storm of controversy for which Serena has never fully accepted responsibility. “I used to have a real temper, and I’ve gotten a lot better,” she stated genuinely after the match.
5. The (first) comeback (2007)
Serena had been dealing with injuries and personal troubles since her half-sister Yetunde was murdered in September 2003. She would win once in the next 13 majors while sitting out five for various reasons. She had dropped out of the top 100 at one time, and when she came in Melbourne for the 2007 Australian Open, nothing was expected of her. She was placed 81st and had a tough draw.
This would be the beginning of a sequence that would culminate at Wimbledon and during the American hard-court season in 2007.
6.Serena 2.0 (2012-2015)
Serena Williams bounced back from the Paris upset to win Wimbledon, defeating world Nos. 2, 3 and 4 along the way. A few weeks later, she hit the gas again at the All-England Club, defeating Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in the London Olympics gold medal match. The US Open was merely a ceremonial event. Serena Williams was playing her best tennis four months after her toughest setback. And so it would go on.
7.The Serena Slam (2003)
Serena went on a Grand Slam winning streak that began with her maiden French Open victory in 2002, winning Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. It wasn’t exactly the Grand Slam that Steffi Graf achieved in 1988, but four straight wins is four consecutive wins, regardless of whether they occurred in the same calendar year. That four-major win streak, dubbed the “Serena Slam,” led to a 33-match win streak in majors before it was broken in the semis of the 2003 French Open. Serena Williams surprised everyone by defeating Venus in the finals of all four majors, putting an end to the rumours that Richard Williams was influencing the results of his daughters’ matches. (Not that it mattered.)