Serena Williams timeline: Highs and lows of her tennis career

From turning professional aged 14 to her loss at the US Open, a list of her success and controversies on the tennis court.

Serena Williams
The defeat at the US Open likely ends a professional career that spanned 26 years and consisted of 23 singles grand slam titles, just one behind record holder Australia’s Margaret Court [File: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo]

Former women’s world number one Serena Williams has likely played the last tennis match of her professional career following her loss to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open.

The 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 loss to the 46th-ranked Australian on Friday seems to have ended a professional career that spanned 26 years and consisted of 23 singles Grand Slam titles, just one behind record holder Australia’s Margaret Court.

Serena’s glorious career saw her sit atop the WTA rankings for 319 weeks (third on the all-time list) of which she held the top position for 186 consecutive weeks (joint record with Steffi Graf).

Her journey, however, has not been free of controversies, ranging from match-fixing accusations against her father to being disqualified over on-court behaviour.

Here is a timeline of Serena’s career, from turning professional to bowing out on Friday night at Flushing Meadows.

1995 – Makes her professional debut aged 14 at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City. Loses in straight sets to Annie Miller.

1998 – Makes Grand Slam main draw debut at Australian Open aged 16. Beats sixth-seed Irina Spirlea but loses in the second round to sister Venus Williams.

Serena Williams
Venus (l) and Serena smile during a press conference following their match at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne in 1998. [Steve Holland/AP Photo]

1998 – Wins first Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon in mixed doubles with Croatia’s Max Mirnyi.

1999 – Beats Swiss legend Martina Hingis in straight sets to win her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open. On her way to the final, Serena beat Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martínez and Monica Seles.

2000 – Bags first Olympic gold along with sister Venus in the women’s doubles category.

2001 – Her family is marred by controversy as Venus withdraws from the Indian Wells semi-final against Serena and their father claims racial abuse from fans.

2002 – Records first French Open and Wimbledon titles, beating Venus in both finals and replacing her as the new world number one.

2003 – Completes career Grand Slam (winning all four Grand Slams at least once) by winning her first Australian Open singles title at the age of 22.

2005 – Wins her second Australian Open after being out with injury and not winning a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2003.

2006 – Stays out of tennis for six months citing injury, which she later claimed was depression.

2009 – Loses US Open final to Kim Clijsters after being penalised on match point for her behaviour with a lineswoman who called a foot fault against Serena who was given a code violation warning earlier when she broke her racket.

2012 – Wins Olympic gold in singles and doubles, completing career golden slam.

2014 – Exits Wimbledon in the third round for the first time since 2005, and withdraws from her doubles match alongside sister Venus.

2015 – Wins third French Open and 20th Grand Slam title, becoming the third person to win each Grand Slam three times. Also wins all four Grand Slams in a row for the second time, the only player to have done so.

Serena celebrates with the trophy following her victory over Czech Republic”s Lucie Safarova at 2015 French Open final [Pascal Guyot/AFP]

2016 – Wins her seventh and last Wimbledon singles title after dropping just one set during the tournament. Partners sister Venus to win their sixth Wimbledon doubles and 14th overall Grand Slam title together. Equals Steffi Graf’s 186-week record on top of WTA rankings.

2017 – Wins her 23rd Grand Slam and seventh Australian Open title by defeating sister Venus in the final. She later announces her pregnancy, making her at least eight weeks pregnant while playing the tournament.

2017 – Gives birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr on September 1, following complications during labour which leave Serena bedridden for six weeks.

2018 – Returns to Grand Slam tennis at French Open but withdraws in the fourth round due to injury. Reaches Wimbledon final but loses in straight sets.

2018 – Serena loses US Open final to Japan’s Naomi Osaka in straight sets. The final is marred by controversy as Serena accuses the chair umpire of being a “thief” and is given a game penalty, which leads to her smashing her racquet and another code violation.

Tennis: US Open
Serena argues with tournament director Brian Earley and chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the 2018 US Open final [Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports/

2019 – Loses finals at Wimbledon and US Open.

2020 – Wins her first title as a mother at the Auckland Open.

2021 – Suffers injury at Wimbledon, withdraws from US Open.

2022 – Announces retirement plans in a magazine article, making the US Open her last tournament.

2022 – Plays her last US Open match, losing 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-1 loss to Ajla Tomljanovic.

Source: Al Jazeera