Serena Williams is a transcendent athlete. Her reach and influence go far beyond tennis. Her retirement has sent shockwaves through the sports world, with many saluting her status as a groundbreaker and rightfully declaring her one of the greatest athletes of all time. You’ll notice I didn’t put a “women’s athlete” qualifier on that, because Serena can’t be limited to just one part of sports. She deserves to be talked about the same way people discuss Jordan, Brady, Gretzky, Kobe, Tiger and Phelps.
When Venus and Serena Williams exploded on the scene in the mostly white world of tennis, their success opened up doors for the next generation of Black women to see themselves in a space that had previously denied them access.
While speaking to reporters during a post-match press conference at the National Bank Open in Toronto, French Open finalist Coco Gauff acknowledged the unmatched legacy Serena has established. She also noted how the Williams sisters being coached by their father gave her own dad the courage to be her coach.
“I grew up watching her. That’s the reason I play tennis. Tennis being a primarily white sport, it definitely helped a lot because I saw somebody who looked like me dominating the game and it made me believe that I could dominate too,” Gauff said. “There’ll never be another Serena.”
‘There will never be another Serena’: Gauff and Andreescu pay tribute to Williams
Tennis legend and ESPN analyst Pam Shriver took it upon herself to also explain how important the 23-time Grand Slam champion has been to the sport.
“She has impacted tennis on the court and off the court. She’s taken tennis off the sports pages and into pop culture,” Shriver told ESPN. “She bridges people of all generations, diversity of background. She’s become a great spokesperson, a philanthropist and she’s matured before our eyes.”
On Twitter, American tennis player Taylor Townsend thanked Serena for the opportunities that she and her sister created for other Black athletes.
“Love you Serena! Thank you for the road you and @venuswilliams have paved to allow me to be here and make a life for myself and my son! You will be missed, but so excited to see what comes next,” Townsend wrote.
Serena didn’t just change the face of tennis, she changed women’s sports. As the most famous and popular female athlete in the world, she demanded that women be treated equally. While it’s still not where it should be, the seven-time Wimbledon champion forced networks to cover more women’s sports. Journalist Cari Champion tweeted how important Serena has been in moving the needle.
“We aren’t ready @serenawilliams! You have done so much for American tennis, the sport, women in sports and for the collective. Your presence and excellence is invaluable. I’m not ready either but you will always remain the GREAT ONE,” Champion wrote.
Writer Charlotte Clymer put it best, saluting Serena’s 23rd Grand Slam win and closing the door on any future GOAT debates.
Serena Williams won the Australian Open while two months pregnant. The GOAT conversation was about the moment she did that,” Clymer wrote.