Rallies, rackets and retirement: Serena Williams’ final farewell

Serena+Williams+competing+in+the+2020+US+Open.+Naomi+Osaka+finished+first+in+the+Open+that+year.+

Andrew Henkelman

Serena Williams competing in the 2020 US Open. Naomi Osaka finished first in the Open that year.

Katy Babcock, Copy Editor

Serena Williams has dominated women’s tennis since she was just 17 years old. After a lifetime on the courts, this household name is preparing for retirement. 

Not only has Williams advanced the sport of tennis, her effect on young girls—particularly those of color—has been transformative. 

Whether she’s breaking records or breaking barriers, Williams has paved the way for the next generation of female athletes. Now she’s laying down her racket to start a new chapter. 

The Pleasant Valley Girls’ tennis team has experienced great success in recent seasons. Williams’ influence on local tennis players is prevalent. Aarya Joshi is one of PV’s star players. “[Williams] was one of the first really big female athletes that inspired me. All my previous role models were men before her.” Seeing a woman win and play with such passion empowered an entire generation of girls like Joshi. 

Williams had her first child in September of 2017. Since then, she has been a devoted mother to her daughter Olympia and a pro-athlete. Now she is ready to expand her company, Serena Ventures, as well as her family. Before playing in this year’s Open, Williams announced she was approaching an evolution in her life. 

This news is bittersweet for most but understandable. Williams has dominated the world’s courts for over two decades. “I think she’s leaving on a high note. From what she’s accomplished, she deserves to take a break and focus on motherhood. Obviously, it’s sad that tennis is losing such a big role model, but we have to move on. We can still continue to learn from her.”  Williams’ time on the courts has come to a close. Nonetheless, her accomplishments will teach countless young girls to chase their dreams for many years to come.

As a woman of color, Williams changed the course of a sport long dominated by White athletes. From rackets and clothes to coaches and clubs, tennis is not a cheap sport to play. Cost aside, 67% of tennis players are white—which is not an inviting statistic for people of color. This did not stop Williams from achieving the unthinkable: a Black woman becoming one of the best tennis players in the world. 

Several factors surrounding tennis make it inaccessible to people of color. Tennis is widely associated with private country clubs, wealth, and White people. The effects of this exclude certain socioeconomic groups from picking up a racket. 

Lauren Masengarb is another standout tennis player for PV. “Usually in tennis, you don’t see much diversity which is why I think Serena is such an influential player to people of all races.” Masengarb hopes to see this change in all levels of tennis: professional, college, and high school. She believes Williams has acted as a catalyst for inclusivity in the courts, but correcting this imbalance and making tennis more accessible is a work in progress. 

Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff are two top players who look up to Williams and attribute much of their success to her trailblazing. Both are women of color who hope to follow in the footsteps of the “GOAT.” They are a testament to Williams’ impact. 

Although there is much room for improvement, the sport has come a long way in reducing its racial disparities. Since the Williams sisters took the courts in the ‘90s, the number of women of color playing pro tennis has increased. Visibility and representation in the media can inspire, validate and support minority groups. And that is just what the Williams sisters did for tennis. 

As long as tennis continues to expand its reach and inclusivity, Williams’ legacy will continue to be felt.