A look back at Serena Williams’ illustrious career on the tennis court and beyond

A career grand slam. Since beginning her professional tennis career in 1995, Serena Williams has had a tennis career unparalleled by many – something fans will look back on when she last left the tennis court.

Serena began her career as a young girl alongside her older sister, Venus Williams. Under the guidance of their father, the two played in public courts – and practiced their serves for hours. And those long hours would soon pay off. The two sisters became known for the power behind their serves and the undeniable talent they had on the court as they twirled and made every point. It was a talent the two possessed, playing together in doubles and alone in singles.

But while Serena and Venus were known for their talent and shared fighting spirit, Serena found her own step in the singles court in the late 1990s – allowing her to push the Williams name to the top of the winners’ circle. Less than five years after turning pro, Serena made history when she won her first Grand Slam after winning the 1999 US Open title. And as Serena held the trophy over her with a huge grin, fans quickly realized this was just the beginning for the tennis icon.

With every win, Serena Williams changed the course of tennis

During her career on the tennis court, Serena Williams won 23 Grand Slam titles – a Grand Slam includes a win in all four major tennis championships that year – and Serena achieved this at a surprising rate.

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But that’s not all Serena has achieved. Since 1995, she has racked up 858 tour wins and 73 singles titles, according to ESPN, and added an Olympic gold medal to her name. It’s a career embellished with medals and trophies, something Serena set her sights on when she first started acting. In 2003, Serena told Oprah about that mindset and how her father encouraged her and Venus Williams to pick a tournament they wanted to win – knowing they would win it. “I said Wimbledon,” Serena explained. And she has won Wimbledon seven times – and almost all other tournaments too.

But for Serena, gaming has never been about the win or the person playing against her. “I’m just thinking about what I’m going to do technically on the pitch. I don’t think about the person I’m playing,” Serena said, explaining when she’s on the pitch it’s all about the game. “After all these years of practice, this is your moment, so you have to take it.” And take it, she did. As Serena entered the pitch, she focused on the technique needed to win, but for the viewers, she simply took another step towards greatness.

Serena Williams has cheered up athletes of all backgrounds

While the victories that Serena Williams achieved on the court were nothing short of incredible, for many the mere sight of her step on the court changed the trajectory of tennis forever.

As a predominantly white, affluent sport for many young athletes of color, there seemed to be no future for them on the court — until they saw Williams. Williams entered the court in pigtails, accepted her muscular appearance with confidence and played the sport with vigor – showing young women they could do the same. Naomi Osaka told TIME that if she hadn’t seen Williams, she would never have started playing tennis. “Her legacy definitely lives on through … other women of color at the top of their game,” Osaka said. “Nobody has changed their sport like they have.”

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But despite knowing the change she’s brought about, Williams rarely touches on that fact. Instead, she thanks her family and sister for helping pave the way for her. And that’s exactly what she did after her loss at the 2022 US Open. But as Williams begins her development away from tennis, it won’t be the last we’ll see of her, nor of her continuing to GOAT in various areas of her life is – something she seems to have always known. “Even with what we’ve accomplished, there’s still so much work to be done outside of tennis,” Williams said in 2003, foreshadowing her future today.