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    Serena Williams makes global mark

    Image used with permission from Mirasha/ Flickr
    Serena serves up in preparation for the 2012 Western and Southern Open. She made it to the quarterfinals, where she lost to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

    Whether you are familiar with her unstoppable serves, consecutive grand slam titles, social justice advocacy or simply her name, Serena Williams has left a permanent mark on the world.

    Williams is one of the most distinguished names in tennis history. According to Black Entrepreneur Profile, she has won more Grand Slam victories than any other woman in the open era and has been ranked singles world No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association on eight separate occasions.

    However, Williams’ legacy goes far beyond her accolades. In addition to her tennis career, Williams continues to inspire generations globally through her brand-building, activism and philanthropy.

    Tennis career

    In their childhood, Serena Williams and her sister Venus Williams spent many hours at local tennis courts being trained by their father before relocating to Florida for the sisters to attend IMG Tennis Academy. Serena made her appearance on the professional tour for the first time in 1995, one year after Venus Williams. The sisters’ powerful groundstrokes quickly generated attention from the tennis world.

    Serena Williams was the first of the Williams sisters to win a Grand Slam, defeating Martina Hingis at the 1999 U.S. Open. Despite their sibling rivalry, the Williams sisters partnered in doubles and accumulated over 14 Grand Slam titles.

    However, Serena Williams’ impact extends beyond her athletic achievements. At the 2002 U.S. Open, Serena Williams challenged traditional attire by wearing a custom-made black Nike catsuit instead of a conventional tennis dress or skirt. Following her U.S. Open appearance, Serena continued pushing fashion boundaries, building a reputation for bold outfits on the court.

    According to Vox, Serena sparked further controversy at the 2018 French Open by walking on the court wearing a full-length superhero-inspired bodysuit, following her return from maternity leave.

    Legacy lives on

    Serena Williams not only etched her name in tennis history, but paved the way for new rising stars. Current women’s tennis stars, Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka both draw inspiration from Williams’ legacy.

    In her on-court interview after beating Serena at the 2021 Australian Open semi-final, Naomi Osaka said she has idolized Serena since childhood.

    “I was a little kid watching her play, and just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream,” Osaka said.

    Osaka played Williams at the tail-end of her career. Unlike Osaka, 19-year-old Gauff never had the opportunity to play against Williams, according to ESPN.

    Former tennis star Billie Jean King, most famous for the Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs and winning 12 Grand Slams, said Serena Williams has stood out from a young age, according to Sky Sports.

    “I’ve known Serena since she was six – she was in one of our team tennis clinics and I knew there that she and her sister were special,” said King.

    Williams’ legacy extends beyond tennis as she is a successful businesswoman and philanthropist. According to Black Entrepreneur Profile, Williams founded “Serena Ventures” and invests in more than 60 companies across multiple industries, including food and beverage, fashion and wellness.

    Furthermore, as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and the founder of The Serena Williams Foundation and The Williams Sisters Fund, Williams is deeply committed to philanthropy.

    According to UNICEF, Williams is committed to providing quality education throughout Africa and eventually Asia.

    Despite the continuous backlash, setbacks and discrimination, Serena continued to play tennis on her terms while using her platform to inspire and advocate for justice globally.

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    About the Contributor
    Alexandra Theofilopoulou ('27) is a Reporter for The Standard in Multimedia Journalism.

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