Serena Williams’ Legendary Career Ends After Third-Round U.S. Open Loss

 Over a career that stretched to more than a quarter of a century, Serena Williams's on-court outfits were often as eye-catching as her tennis.

AFP Sport looks at 10 of the best worn by the 23-time Grand Slam title winner:

2002 - Catsuit, not wet suit

-- When Williams won her second US Open in 2002, she did it dressed in a Lycra catsuit.


It dominated large parts of her opening round press conference where some reporters were bemused.

"Great outfit. Does it come with flippers, a mask, and a snorkel?"

"Of course not," fired back the American. "This is more of a catsuit. It's not a wet suit. A wet suit has long sleeves and it's usually longer and thicker material.

"This is made of Lycra. It's supposed to have the illusion of looking a little bit like leather from a distance. But it's made of Lycra because it kind of sticks to the body. It kind of really sticks to what type of shape you have. If you don't have a decent shape, this isn't the best outfit to have."

2004 - In the Paris pink

-- Williams appeared at Roland Garros in a bright pink two-piece outfit designed by Nike.


Her headband was emblazoned with the letter 'S' while her crop top revealed a belly button stud.

2004 - Biker girl in black leather

-- Williams's initial dilemma was whether or not she would be allowed to play at the US Open in knee-high boots rather than tennis shoes.


"You can wear them while you're playing, I'm sure," she said before removing them.

"It's like a rebel look when I'm being really rebellious. I'm just doing things differently with the black and the studs. I'm just being a rebel. So maybe I would start out with something like, 'Serena's going rebel without a cause."

2008 - Game, set, mac!

-- Serena lost the 2008 Wimbledon final to sister Venus but made a statement when she arrived on Centre Court at the start of the tournament wearing a white trench coat.


"I don't think it's going to keep the rain away but we can always hope. I absolutely love trench coats," she explained.

Britain's Daily Express captioned the moment: 'Game, Set and Mac, Miss Williams.'

2014 - Leopard print curve ball

-- Pink leopard print for day matches, black for the night at the 2008 US Open. Nike called it: "The fierce Nike Serena Dress."

Fellow player Elena Vesnina told USA Today: "She's trying to show her curves. That's a good thing -– you're showing the best part of your body and you're covering some kinds of things that you don't want to show. Serena looks really good in it."


2018 - Superhero and a warrior?

-- One of her most controversial outfits was her black catsuit unveiled at Roland Garros.

"I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess from Wakanda," said Serena, in reference to the hit movie, Black Panther. "I've always wanted to be a superhero."


The French Open, however, took a dim view and banned it at future events with French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli insisting: "One must respect the game and the place."

2018 - Tennis in a tutu

-- After the French Open ban, the American appeared at Flushing Meadows in a black tutu dress. The top of the costume had one long sleeve while the right-hand side was sleeveless.


"It's easy to play in. Kind of aerodynamic with one arm free. It feels really good. Yeah, the tutu is easy to play in because I practiced in it before. That was fun," she said.

2021 - Salute to Flo Jo

-- At Melbourne Park, the American wore a brightly-colored red, pink and black one-piece outfit with just the right leg covered.


It was, she said, a tribute to late US sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner.

"FloJo was a wonderful track athlete, an amazing athlete when I was growing up. Well, watching her fashion, just always changing, her outfits were always amazing," explained Williams.

2021 - Train of thought at Wimbledon

-- Williams appeared in the court with a removable white train.


Her fashion statement, however, was quickly forgotten when she was forced to retire from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich with a right leg injury after just six games.

"Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on -- and off -- the court meant the world to me," she said in a statement.

2022 - Diamond life in New York

-- For her final bow at the US Open, Williams's outfit caught the eye, a skirt designed with six layers -— one tier for every US Open title she has won —- and a diamond-encrusted bodice.


"It is a dress made for a supernova's farewell," said The New York Times.

Williams later revealed she had adapted the dress on the fly.

"I have six layers to represent the six wins but I took four out because it was too heavy," she said.

Serena Williams held strong views on tennis, society as well as her rivals.

AFP Sport looks at some of the American's most memorable and occasionally controversial quotes:

"Thank you, daddy, I know you're watching. Thanks, mum. I want to thank everyone who's here, who has been on my side for so many years, literally decades. I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't Venus, so thank you, Venus. She's the only reason Serena Williams ever existed."

-- On court on Friday after being knocked out of the US Open.

"Are you looking at my titles?"

-- Message on the front of her T-shirt at Wimbledon in 2009. She had added three more Slam titles to her collection in the preceding 12 months but was still ranked number two in the world behind Dinara Safina who never lifted a major in her career.

"At first people said it would be fine, it would be all right but it turned out to be a lot more serious. If it had been left two days later it could have been career-ending – or even worse. They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that."

-- On blood clots on her lung in 2010

"I love me. I've learned to love myself. I've been like this my whole life and I embrace myself. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I'm strong, and I'm powerful, and I'm beautiful at the same time."

-- Hitting out at body shamers

"She begins every interview with 'I'm so happy. I'm so lucky – it's so boring. She's still not going to be invited to the cool parties."

-- On rival Maria Sharapova

"When I stop playing, it's not going to be because I'm sick of playing...It's going to be because I'm sick of practicing."

-- In 2013 when asked about her future

"Will I have to explain to my daughter that her brother is going to make more money doing the exact same job because he's a man? If they both played sports since they were three years old, they both worked just as hard, but because he's a boy, they're going to give him more money. How am I going to explain that to her?"

-- On equal prize money in tennis

"We see things that have been hidden for years; the things that we as people have to go through. This has been happening for years. People just couldn't pull out their phones and video it before."

-- On racism in the light of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I don't know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone, so…"

-- After her 2021 Australian Open semi-final loss to Naomi Osaka

"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on — and off — the court meant the world to me."

-- After an ankle injury forced her to withdraw during her first round match at Wimbledon in 2021.

"There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis. But now, 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."

-- In July this year, discussing her imminent retirement.

"That ball was soooo in. What the heck is this? It was not out. Do I need to speak another language?"

-– To chair umpire Maria Alves during the 2004 US Open semi-final against Jennifer Capriati.

"I swear to God I'll take the ball and shove it down your throat."

-– Infamous tirade at a lineswoman who called Serena for a foot fault in the 2009 US Open semi-final.

...and the thoughts of her longtime coach:

"She changed tennis!. She brought an athletic dimension that there was not at all, she opened the doors, with her sister Venus, to a whole generation of players because it was a white sport. She invented tennis intimidation because she has a presence that makes others fear her."

-- Coach Patrick Mouratoglou to AFP in an interview in September on the eve of her 40th birthday.

Serena Williams went from learning tennis on public courts in a notorious American gangland neighborhood to becoming a superstar for a generation and perhaps the greatest player in history.

Now, the 40-year-old legend is heading for retirement after almost certainly playing her last match, a three-set defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open on Friday.

"I'm ready to be a mom and explore a different version of myself," she said as she looked ahead to family time with daughter Olympia.

Serena became an African-American icon in a white-dominated sport, winning 23 Grand Slam titles and smashing aside milestones with a determination as powerful as the raw energy that defines her shotmaking magic.

Serena and sister Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, were executive producers on the movie "King Richard" which told the Hollywood fairytale of them being taught tennis by father Richard Williams while growing up on the tough streets of Compton, California.

"I am still just that girl with the racquet and a dream and I'm just playing for that," Williams said after a 2013 US Open title.

She wound up living the dream as she won seven Australian Open titles, three French Opens, seven Wimbledon crowns, and six US Opens to stand agonizingly just one shy of matching the all-time record for Slam singles titles set by Margaret Court.

Serena won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open at age 17 and in 2017 captured her 23rd and most recent major title at the Australian Open while pregnant with Olympia.

She gave birth to her daughter in September 2017 and spent six weeks bedridden after a pulmonary embolism, but battled back to make her return to competition five months later in Fed Cup doubles alongside Venus.

Williams, whose husband is Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, twice completed a "Serena Slam" by winning all four major titles in a row. She did it in 2002-2003 starting with the 2002 French Open and again in 2014-15 starting with the 2014 US Open.

She had a chance to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 but was upset by Italy's Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals.

"I never really want to focus on the numbers," Williams said. "I started playing tennis not to be the greatest but just because I had a racquet and a dream. Now people are saying I could be (the greatest), but for me, I'm just not there yet.

"People like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, they are just, to me, the ultimate icons in the history of women's tennis."

Williams brought style and power to her game, at times her fashion designs distracted from her dazzling on-court efforts.

She won the most recent of her 73 career WTA titles in January 2020 at the Auckland Open, her only crown as a mother.

Four times Williams had a chance to equal Court's all-time record but lost in the 2018 and 2019 finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

Struggles and setbacks

She battled through struggles as well. Serena's half-sister, Yetunde Price, was fatally shot in 2003 at age 31 by a gang member in their hometown of Compton. She had been Serena's personal assistant.

After Williams cut her foot at a German restaurant day following her 2010 Wimbledon triumph, she needed two surgeries and spent 20 weeks in a walking cast, a situation she blamed for causing blood clots in her lungs in 2011 that threatened her life. She missed three major events and was out for almost a year.

"(Doctors) said I had clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that because you don't recognize it," Williams said in 2011.

"I couldn't breathe, I honestly just thought I was out of shape. A couple more days and it would not have been good. It could have possibly been career-ending.

"Being at the top of your game, having to have something like that happen randomly was tough, and it really makes me appreciate things."

Williams credited her success to the work of her father and stuck by him even after her parents split up.

"I wouldn't have won a single title without him and without his backing," said Williams. "He's a great coach. He's just so innovative.

"He built my game and my sister's game. He gave us a good foundation. It was solid and it wasn't weak, so we were always able to grow our game."

Richard Williams would let other children taunt his daughters as they practiced.

"In order to be successful you must prepare for the unexpected -- and I wanted to prepare for that," he told CNN in 2015. "Criticism can bring the best out of you."

 Ajla Tomljanovic sent Serena Williams into almost certain retirement on Friday when she knocked the tennis legend out of the US Open before hailing her as "the greatest of all time. Period."

The American 23-time Grand Slam title winner, and a six-time champion in New York, lost her third-round clash 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.

"I'm feeling real sorry just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. What she's done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible," said Australia's Tomljanovic.

"I never thought I'd have a chance to play her in her last match when I remember watching her in all those finals, so this is a surreal moment for me."

It was a nervy conclusion for the 29-year-old Tomljanovic who sealed the deal on a sixth match point after more than three hours on court.

"I just thought she would beat me, so the pressure wasn't on me. Even to the last point, I knew that she's in a position to win even when she's down 5-1," added Tomljanovic.

"That's just who she is and she's the greatest of all time. Period."

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