10 Ways Serena Williams Has Proven She’s the GOAT
Is there anything Serena Williams can't do?
On Aug. 9, Serena Williams announced that she would be retiring from professional tennis, marking the end of the career of one of the world’s greatest living athletes. But the next day—in a move that left many fans confused—she competed in the Canadian Open, and less than a week later, she hit the court in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open. So, did Serena Williams retire, or what?
Williams didn’t initially specify when she would be stepping down from the sport, but in an Instagram post following her announcement, she hinted that the upcoming U.S. Open—which runs from Aug. 29 through Sept. 11—could be her final professional tournament, writing, “The countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just [as] exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.” If nothing else, that message confirms that Serena Williams will be retired sooner than later.
While she’s relishing her final weeks playing professional tennis, we’ll be celebrating Serena Williams’s iconic moments and incredible accomplishments. Whether you’re interested in inspiring quotes, female firsts, pioneering women, celebrities, famous sisters or inspirational sports quotes, these highlights of her career will leave you feeling motivated.
She accomplished a historic first in tennis
Before Serena Williams retired, she had an incredible career spanning three decades. This includes being the first—and only—professional tennis player of any gender to get a career Golden Slam in not only singles but doubles as well. When a tennis player wins the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in the same year, they’ve achieved a Grand Slam—a feat in and of itself. But win a Grand Slam and a gold medal at the Olympics in a single year, and you’ve got the rare Golden Slam. Serena Williams earned a Golden Slam in 2001 in doubles with her sister, Venus. Eleven years later, she won a singles gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics—and her second Golden Slam.
She puts up impressive stats
With Serena Williams retired (or, rather, on the verge of retiring), it’s the perfect time to take a look at the statistics from her historic tennis career. In addition to her two Golden Slams, Williams has achieved the following:
23 Grand Slam titles
- 4 Olympic gold medals (three for doubles tennis and one for singles)
A total of 73 singles titles
Reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam 40 different times and has a 33–7 record
Won 20 out of 22 matches against fellow tennis legend Maria Sharapova
Played 555 career matches against top 10 opponents, with a record of 435-120 (78% wins)
She has shattered records
As impressive as her stats are, they’re not the only reason the sports world considers Serena Williams the greatest of all time. She’s also shattered countless records during her long career, becoming:
One of only two women’s singles players (Steffi Graf is the other) to earn a career Super Slam, winning all four Grand Slam tournaments, a gold medal at the Olympics and a year-end championship
- The second Black woman to win a Grand Slam title, which she achieved in 1999 when she won the U.S. Open
The oldest player to hold an Olympic gold medal and all Grand Slam titles in singles tennis at the same time
She’s played both with and against Venus
Of all the famous sister rivalries, the one between Venus and Serena Williams is probably the most well known in professional sports. It’s also pretty unusual because, in addition to being rivals (in singles competitions) and sisters, they’ve also been teammates in doubles tournaments. And no matter what happened on the court, they remained best friends throughout their tennis careers (and beyond). But most notably, the sisters’ rivalry made them both better players.
“The best part is we bring out the best in each other. I know when I play her, I have to play some of my best tennis. She does too,” Serena told reporters during the 2018 U.S. Open. “I feel like throughout our career, we have pushed each other to be the best that we can be … and be Venus and Serena Williams.”
She has raked in the prizes
Along with fame and accolades, winning tennis tournaments typically comes with a cash prize. And when you win as much as Williams does, that’s quite a bit of money. Over the course of her career, she’s won more than $94.6 million dollars—twice as much as any other female athlete has made, according to Forbes.
But that’s the thing: Even though Williams is widely regarded as one of the best athletes in the world, regardless of gender, her earnings don’t necessarily reflect that when compared with what male athletes can bring in. That’s why Williams ranks 31st on Forbes‘s list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. It’s just another example of how society still doesn’t treat women as equals to men.
She has business smarts
On top of her winnings, Williams has earned $45 million from more than a dozen endorsement deals with brands including Nike, Kraft Foods, Subway, DirecTV, Wilson, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines, Aston Martin, Pepsi and others.
But what about life after tennis? In her Vogue essay announcing her retirement, Williams explained that she began investing in startup companies nine years ago and plans to continue to do so through her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures. The firm raised $111 million in outside financing in 2022 alone, and 78% of its current portfolio is businesses founded by women and people of color. In other words, just because Serena Williams retired from tennis doesn’t mean she’s going to stop working.
She’s endlessly quotable
Some athletes have a way with words, and Williams is no exception. She has plenty of amazing confidence quotes and winning quips, including these:
- “Being strong is never easy. Not in this world we are living in. … Standing up for yourself is not going to be easy, but it’s always eventually respected.” —Allure, Jan. 2019
“Humility is a defining [trait] all of us can forever learn, and I try to be as humble as anyone can be.” —Glamour, June 2016
“I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.” —Time, Feb. 2015
“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.” —The National, Sept. 2012
She wrote a children’s book
Once upon a time, Williams created a doll named Qai Qai for her daughter, Olympia Ohanian. Since then, Qai Qai (pronounced “kway kway”) has become not only a popular toy but also an Instagram celebrity. And now, Olympia’s doll is the main character in Williams’s first children’s book, The Adventures of Qai Qai, which has illustrations by Yesenia Moises and comes out in September. It’s no surprise, the book comes with a powerful message to young readers about the importance of believing in yourself—even when it feels like you’re not good enough.
She’s not afraid to call out sexism
In the essay she wrote for Vogue announcing her retirement, Serena Williams did not mince words when it came to the reason she was stepping down from tennis. After explaining that she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, have been trying to expand their family, Williams said she doesn’t want to be pregnant again as a professional athlete, writing, “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
While Williams stressed that she loved being pregnant with her daughter (and being a woman, in general), she pointed out that she was forced to make an incredibly difficult decision, specific to athletes with the capacity to give birth. “Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” she wrote. “I don’t think it’s fair. 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.”
She gives back
Serena Williams may be known for feats of athleticism on the court, but her philanthropic achievements are no less worthy of praise. She became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 and has been involved in charities throughout her career.
She and sister Venus helped start the Yetunde Price Resource Center in her hometown of Compton, California. It’s named for their late sister, who was killed in the area, and provides programming and resources for the community. Williams also supported charities during the pandemic, working with organizations to ensure kids across America received masks and donating meals to fight hunger.
- Vogue: “Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis On Her Own Terms—And In Her Own Words”
- New York Times: “Serena Williams Bids Farewell to Canadian Tennis Fans”
- Olympedia: “Olympians Who Won a Golden Slam in Tennis”
- ASAP Sports: “U.S. Open Transcript”
- Forbes: “Serena Williams”
- Real Qai Qai: “The Adventures of Qai Qai”
- Serena Williams: “Philanthropy”