Serena Williams set for farewell: ‘You don’t even have to say her last name, everyone knows Serena’
Boyzone were top of the charts and more than a quarter of the women’s top 100 had not been born when Serena Williams made her US Open debut 24 years ago.
Already a superstar in the making at 16, Williams has been the talk of tennis ever since and will be celebrated as such at Flushing Meadows as she marks the end of one of the great sporting careers.
A few weeks short of her 41st birthday and keen to focus on trying to have a second child, Williams has decided, reluctantly, that now is the time to hang up her racket.
While she has played sparingly over the last few years and women like Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek have staked their claim at the top of the game, Williams remained the dominant female of the WTA Tour and her retirement will leave an inescapable hole.
Most of her fellow competitors in New York have known only tennis with Williams in it.
Former US Open finalist Madison Keys told the PA news agency: “I grew up watching Serena, I idolised her forever and being able to play against her multiple times on the tour, those are still some of the most memorable matches that I’ve ever played and they will also be some of the most special moments that I’ve had on a tennis court.
“I’m going to be very sad to no longer see her playing tennis but I think she’s going to continue to do amazing things.
“She doesn’t want to use the word retirement and I’m not going to use the word retirement, I think it’s just truly evolving into the next part of her life and I think, as with everything she does, it’s going to be phenomenal and incredibly successful.”
As well as her family commitments, Williams has several business ventures, including an investment company that looks set to be at the centre of what she does next.
Williams announced her decision in a lengthy and considered article for Vogue earlier this month but has kept as low a profile as she has been able to since.
She admitted she is not fond of goodbyes and, after a tearful send-off in Toronto, she walked swiftly off court following a one-sided loss to Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati last week.
Williams’ practice sessions in New York so far have at least given hope that she can perform at a higher level when she takes on Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in the first round.
“It’s going to be emotional for everybody and it’s hard to play when you know this is goodbye,” Martina Navratilova told PA. “I feel for her. I had a hard time getting the racket out of my racket bag for those last matches that I played. Hopefully it will be a good ending.”
Williams’ pursuit of the elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title that would tie her with Margaret Court at the top of the all-time charts has been a major factor in her carrying on so long.
The dream of the perfect ending appears unrealistic but Williams seems to have made peace with the idea she has achieved more than enough and the current crop of American women are testament to her huge influence.
Twelve of the top 100 are American while women’s tennis in particular has a far more diverse playing field than that day in 1998 when a black girl from Compton began her New York journey.
“You don’t even have to say her last name, everyone knows Serena,” added Keys. “If you ask 15 girls why they started playing tennis, maybe all of them say it’s because of her. She’s obviously going to leave a lasting legacy that people will talk about forever.”
Will Novak Djokovic play until 2028 if his Olympic dream is shattered in Paris?
Will Novak Djokovic play at the 2028 Olympics?
Why did Ryder Cup hero Rory McIlroy break up with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki?
Rory McIlroy broke up with Caroline Wozniacki just as they started making wedding plans in 2014.
Coco Gauff gets fired up to prove her haters wrong again
Coco Gauff thrives on proving the haters wrong.
Iga Swiatek backs WTA in contentious performance bye rule change
Iga Swiatek feels that the performance byes are a good thing.
Jannik Sinner not at 100 per cent while Carlos Alcaraz has ‘extra confidence’ ahead of Beijing showdown
Carlos Alcaraz has ‘extra confidence’ as he prepares to face Jannik Sinner.
Carlos Alcaraz’s comments reveal killer mindset as he beats Casper Ruud in China
Carlos Alcaraz suggested he sent a big psychological message to Casper Ruud early in their match in China.
Former Wimbledon champion on why Carlos Alcaraz is no match for Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are battling to claim the year-end No 1 ranking on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic finds one word to sum up his Ryder Cup experience
Novak Djokovic was a big presence at the event as he took part in the pre-tournament All-Star match at the Ryder Cup.
Carlos Alcaraz’s Shanghai Masters draw revealed as he eyes Novak Djokovic’s No 1 ranking
Carlos Alcaraz has an open door to make up ground in his effort to finish as world No 1 for a second successive season.
Jack Draper reveals why he is a much better player in honest confession
Jack Draper insists that hard times breed better men.