Serena Williams has dominated on the court for over two decades. Photos show the poise, passion, power, and pride that's made her the face of tennis. Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSerena Williams is one of the most elite athletes on the planet and, to many, is considered the Greatest of All Time (GOAT).
The 40-year-old star has dominated tennis for more than two decades, and she's just one Grand Slam shy of tying Margaret Smith Court's record for most Grand Slam singles titles — male or female — in the history of the sport. In August 2022 — a few weeks ahead of the US Open — the 23-time major champion announced her intention to retire following the Grand Slam in Flushing Meadows. Photos from throughout Williams' illustrious career put her poise, passion, power, and pride — as well as her immense impact on tennis and the broader sports world — on full display.
Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. Serena Williams is one of the most elite athletes on the planet. NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 27: Serena Williams of the United States celebrates the point during her women's singles first round match against Magda Linette of Poland on Day One of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesThe 40-year-old tennis star has won 23 Grand Slams in her illustrious career. The back had an open cut. Getty/Quinn RooneyAnd she's done it in absolutely dominant fashion for more than two decades.
Adam Pretty/GettyShe made her professional debut at 14 years old despite her parents' hopes that she'd wait another two years. AP Photo/Michael S. GreenShe didn't compete in any tournaments the following year but burst onto the scene at the Ameritech Cup in 1997.
AP Photo/Michael S. GreenAt the Chicago-based tournament, a then-16-year-old Williams — who was ranked 304th in the world at the time — upset the No. 7 and fourth-ranked players before losing to the fifth-ranked player in the semifinals.
AP Photo/Katrina TepperSource: The New York TimesShe played in her first Grand Slam — the Australian Open — the following year, defeating yet another top-10 opponent before falling to her sister, Venus, in their first of many meetings. Mark Baker/ReutersSource: The New York TimesShe and Venus won their first doubles tournament together in Oklahoma City later that year, marking Serena's first professional victory. ReutersThe sisters have been doubles partners throughout their illustrious careers and went on to win another 21 doubles titles together.
Adam Pretty/Getty ImagesBut Serena is best known for her singles career, which began to take its familiar, dominant shape right around the turn of the century. Getty/AJ BelloWilliams won her first professional tournament on her own back in 1999 at the Open Gaz de France in Paris. Getty ImagesShe entered the top-10 of the WTA rankings in 1999 and — for the vast majority of the following 20 years — she lingered there.
ReutersSource: WTAShortly thereafter, Williams broke through under the bright lights of the 1999 US Open, becoming the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam in more than 40 years. Serena Williams holds up the US Open trophy after winning her first grand slam in 1999. Richard Drew/APThe floodgates would really open two years later when Williams completed her first "Serena Slam" — holding all four Grand Slam titles at one time.
Vincent Kessler/ReutersShe won her first French Open, first Wimbledon, second US Open, first Australian Open, and second Wimbledon in succession between 2002 and 2003. Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty ImagesAnd in all five victories, she faced Venus in the final. REUTERS/Kevin LamarqueSerena would go on to win the US Open four more times.
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesAnd she's competed in the finals in Flushing Meadows an additional four times. Al Bello/Getty ImagesOf the four Grand Slam tournaments, she's had the hardest time competing on clay at Roland Garros. REUTERS/Vincent KesslerIn addition to winning the French Open in 2002, Williams made three additional finals appearances there.
REUTERS/Gonzalo FuentesShe took down Maria Sharapova in 2013 and Lucie Šafářová in 2015. REUTERS/Stephane MaheSource: ESPNStill, she's had much more success some 190 miles northwest in Wimbledon. Ben Curtis/APAnd she's enjoyed some of her greatest career moments on the famed grass across the pond.
AP Photo/Kirsty WigglesworthWilliams has won seven of her 11 title match appearances at The Championships — the oldest and most esteemed of the Grand Slam tournaments. Julian Finney/GettyLikewise, she's won seven singles tournaments at the Australian Open. REUTERS/Jason ReedAnd she's made it look easy down under.
REUTERS/Jason ReedShe's only lost a single finals appearance in Melbourne. REUTERS/Jason ReedThis prolonged dominance allowed her to achieve a second "Serena Slam" from 2014 to 2015. REUTERS/Shannon StapletonAnd Williams nearly completed her first-ever calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015, but a semifinal loss to Roberta Vinci kept the then-33-year-old out of the elusive club of Grand Slammers.
REUTERS/Mike SegarBut along with her remarkable successes have come a fair share of controversies. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPXThe racket which Serena Williams smashed during her 2018 US Open final defeat to Naomi Osaka just sold at auction for $20,910Williams berated Carlos Ramos at the 2018 US Open after the chair umpire made some controversial — and arguably sexist — calls against her in her finals match against Naomi Osaka. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTSSerena Williams said 'I don't know who that is' when asked about the 2018 US Open umpire who caused her infamous meltdownAnd even though her loss was controversial, Williams was gracious towards Osaka after the then-budding star earned her first Grand Slam victory.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports'No more booing': Serena Williams gives emotional interview after dramatic US Open women's finalStill, Williams had a history of controversy at the US Open, including at least two instances in which she was accused of verbally abusing officials at the event. REUTERS/Jessica RinaldiSource: ESPN and The AtlanticEven her attire has sometimes attracted negative attention; the catsuit she wore during the 2018 French Open was famously banned post-competition. REUTERS/Christian HartmannThe French Open banning Serena Williams' catsuit is like when women were vilified for wearing shortsUnfortunately, Williams has also faced racism throughout her career in tennis — a sport historically dominated by white athletes.
Elsa/GettyAn Australian newspaper printed a cartoon showing Serena Williams as an angry babyBut through controversy. . .
AP Photo/Darron Cummings. . .
injury. . .
Michael Dodge/Getty Images. . .
and even pregnancy. . .
Chris Symes/Photosport via APSerena Williams and her husband made a video about her pregnancy and it'll make you cry. . .
Williams has remained the face of women's tennis for more than two decades. Thomas Peter/ReutersThrough all the tumult, Williams has held the No. 1 spot in the WTA rankings for a whopping 319 weeks of her career, good for third all-time.
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty ImagesAnd she's just one Grand Slam victory shy of tying Margaret Smith Court's record for most singles Grand Slam victories — male or female — the history of the sport. Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesThough she hasn't yet managed to secure that elusive first Grand Slam win since returning to the court from maternity leave, Williams remained quite competitive immediately after her comeback. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SportsAfter she famously won the 2017 Australian Open while nine weeks pregnant, Williams took a little more than a year off before returning to the clay at Roland Garros.
REUTERS/Gonzalo FuentesShe then made back-to-back finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers/File PhotoBut she lost in straight sets each time. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsAngelique Kerber got revenge for her 2016 Wimbledon loss at the same event two years later, while Simona Halep stunned Williams in 2019 despite entering the tournament as a seven-seed.
Susan Mullane-USA TODAY SportsAt the US Open, upstarts Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu both upset the tennis legend in consecutive finals. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY SportsStill, after 2018, Williams rose up the WTA rankings from 491 — her lowest ranking in more than a decade. Vaughn Ridley/Getty ImagesSource: WTABy the end of that year, she had once again broken into the top-20.
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesSource: WTAShe dipped in and out of the top-10 in 2019, but never found herself outside of the top 20. REUTERS/Kai PfaffenbachSource: WTAWilliams was ranked in the top 10 throughout 2020. Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesSource: WTABut her priorities began to shift in 2021.
Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via APAfter making deep runs at the first two Slams of the year — the Australian Open and the French Open — Williams suffered an ankle injury that ended her Wimbledon run before it even started. Serena Williams. Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty ImagesSerena Williams bowed out of her Wimbledon opener after falling to the ground with an apparent ankle injuryA lingering leg injury then forced her to withdraw from the US Open.
Serena Williams celebrates a point during the 2020 US Open. AP Photo/Frank Franklin IISerena Williams has pulled out of the US Open to recover from a torn hamstringAnd her ranking fell to its lowest position in well over a decade. Serena Williams.
AP Photo/Kirsty WigglesworthBut as Williams' form on the court began to shift, so too did her life outside of tennis. Serena Williams (right) and her daughter, Olympia Ohanian, wearing matching outfits on the red carpet at the "King Richard" premiere. Jay L.
Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesSerena Williams and her daughter, Olympia, wore adorable matching outfits on the red carpetLife as mom to Olympia was her top priority. AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonAnd she began exploring other projects from Hollywood to Wall Street. AP Photo/Jae C.
HongSerena's next serveShe didn't return for either the Australian Open or French Open in 2022. Serena Williams. AP Photo/Michel EulerBut after trips to the Oscars and the boardroom, Williams laced up her shoes for her big return.
Serena Williams. Getty/Robert PrangeSerena Williams is making her tennis comeback after being granted wildcard to play WimbledonAt Wimbledon — her first Grand Slam in a year — Williams fell to Harmony Tan in the first round. Serena Williams plays at Wimbledon 2022 on June 28, 2022 in London, England.
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesSerena Williams hinted at playing the US Open later this year after her shocking first-round exit from WimbledonBut the epic battle, which came down to a tiebreak, showed that the 40-year-old still had what it takes to compete at the highest levels of tennis. Serena Williams now. Alberto Pezzali/AP ImagesStill, Williams was growing tired of splitting her life in two.
Serena Williams. Getty/Julian AvramAnd, in August, she announced that it was time to say goodbye. AP Photo/Alberto PezzaliSerena Williams announces she is retiring from tennis, saying that as a woman, she must choose between 'tennis and a family'She'll play one final US Open — the Grand Slam where she won her first-ever title and kickstarted her illustrious career — before hanging up her racket for good.
AP Photo/Mike GrollSerena Williams says Tiger Woods convinced her to give Wimbledon and the US Open one more shotAnd though she doesn't like the word "retirement," she'll undoubtedly make her grand exit to immense fanfare. Florian Eisele/Pool Photo via APThe 2022 US Open — Williams' final go — begins August 29 in New York City. Greg Allen/Invision/APNow check out how Williams and her husband, tech guru Alexis Ohanian make and spend their millions:Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian have been together for a few years.
Evan Agostini/APSERENA AND ALEXIS: How the tennis ace and the tech guru make and spend their millionsRead the original article on Insider.