Five Years Since Her Last Grand Slam Win, Serena Williams Remains A Sporting Icon

It's been a crazy half-decade for the greatest female tennis player of all time
11:46, 28 Jan 2022

Remarkably, it has now been a full five years since the greatest female tennis player of all time won her last Grand Slam. In Melbourne, back in 2017, Serena Williams fittingly defeated her sister Venus to win her seventh Australian Open and an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam singles title. 

Few of the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena that day believed this would be the last time Williams would lift a Grand Slam title. She seemed certain to equal Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam record of 24 at some point over the next year, given her sensational form and history of success, but yet into 2022, we are still waiting. 

Of course, life brings its own challenges, especially for female sports stars - and the revelation that Serena was 20 weeks pregnant in April made her Australian Open win even more special. Some quick maths means that the American star was staggeringly eight weeks pregnant when she beat her sister in the final in late January. 

Her emergency-caesarean in September, followed by a pulmonary embolism left her bed-ridden for six weeks, yet her determination would not keep her away from the court permanently, even when she was suffering with postpartum depression. 

By Spring 2018, she was back in Grand Slam action, and reached the fourth round of the French Open, her weakest tournament. But she would return to the very top, even if she could not quite get over the line. 

She reached back-to-back finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019, yet lost each and every one, to four different opponents. Given her utter dominance in Grand Slam finals in the past - she had won 23 of 29 before her baby was born - it was unusual to see Williams lose at this stage on a consistent basis. 

Perhaps the pressure of Court’s record has been on her mind, perhaps the physical toil of giving birth and the subsequent issues have taken an edge of her game, or perhaps it is simply the slight decline of an ageing great, now into her 40s. 

She is, of course, a sporting icon and has spoken out against inequality her whole life, but she might not be done with tennis quite yet. It’s been five years since her last Grand Slam, and given what we have seen over the last two years, combined with her absence from the latest US Open and this year’s Australian, it does seem like being her last title. 

However, according to John McEnroe, she is preparing for one last shot in 2022.  “Serena looks as though she is still training and trying to get herself ready and absolutely wants to try and break the record,” seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe told Eurosport.

“She seems very motivated still and I anticipate her coming back and making a real run at Wimbledon or trying to do one more US Open.

“She is desperate for one more even though it doesn’t change anything in my book. She is one of the greatest athletes, male or female, that has played the sport, so of course we would like to see her play again, but she is also 40 and doesn’t have the fear factor that she once had amongst the younger players, so that makes it more difficult.”

That 6-2, 6-2 victory against Venus in January 2017 was straightforward for the then 35-year-old and propelled her back to number one spot. For nearly two decades she dominated the sport and only pregnancy halted her on her quest to be crowned the outright most successful player of all time.

Yet Olympia doesn’t detract from Serena’s sporting greatness. She adds to it. Her comeback story has been staggering just by reaching four finals over the past few years, but if the story ends here, it is still one of sport’s greatest tales. However, if McEnroe is right, the 40-year-old may be penning one final chapter.

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