Fans are celebrating Serena Williams’s historic career as the tennis legend looks toward retirement after 27 years of dominating the court.
After a loss to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open in New York on Friday, Williams thanked her family for their support, especially expressing her love for her sister Venus. “I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus,” Williams said. “She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.”
With that, Williams’s run ended at the tournament, which is expected to be her last. Many celebrities and fans posted tributes to Williams on social media and thanked her for her impact on both sport and pop culture.
“thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sports for black athletes, female athletes and every athlete,” Olympic gymnast Simone Biles tweeted. “such a pleasure to watch, thanks for being an inspiration.”
Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old tennis star who is heading into the US Open's fourth round, shared an old photo showing a poster of Williams on her bedroom wall.
"Serena, THANK YOU," she tweeted. "It is because of you I believe in this dream."
In a vulnerable essay for Vogue last month, Williams announced she plans to move away from the sport to focus on having another child.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis,” she said. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, world’s worst. ... You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”
Over the decades, Williams has become widely known as one of the most influential tennis players and dominant athletes of all time, holding 23 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. Her first major title was in 1999, when she was 17 years old.
Data shared by Twitter showed she was the most tweeted-about female athlete of all time. After the US Open match on Friday, fans posted some of their favorite moments throughout the athlete’s journey, from her 2007 Australian Open win to her Sports Illustrated cover in 2015.
Tomljanovic, who won the match on Friday, shared her own gratitude for Williams during her court interview. “I love Serena as much as you guys do,” she said. “I just thought she would beat me, you know?”
“I thank everyone for everyone who’s been on my side for years, decades,” Williams said in her tearful concession speech. “These are happy tears. It’s been the most incredible journey I’ve ever been on in my life.”