Serena Williams’ top 10 moments – how did BBC Sport readers vote?

Based alone on what she achieved on the court, Serena Williams is widely considered the greatest player of all time.

Williams’ achievements – 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 319 weeks as the world number one and 14 more major doubles titles – have underpinned her status as an icon who has changed the face of the women’s game.

With the six-time US Open champion ending her career in New York amid emotional scenes, we look back on 10 of her most memorable moments on the court.

The vote for Williams’ greatest moment has now closed, with 20% of respondents selecting her 2017 Australian Open victory as their favourite achievement. The full results are at the bottom.

1. US Open 1999 – winning her first Grand Slam title

Serena Williams celebrates winning the 1999 US Open
Williams had never gone past the fourth round in her six Grand Slam appearances before winning the 1999 US Open title

It feels like a long time ago since Williams winning a Grand Slam singles title was classed as a surprise.

Really, it did not happen after she won her first major as a 17-year-old at the 1999 US Open.

The seventh seed showed not only her talent to beat Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martinez and Monica Seles, but also focus and fight in three consecutive wins from a set down.

Then she overcame Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis – ranked second and first in the world – to lift the trophy she had always dreamed of winning.

The floodgates had opened and the journey towards greatness began.

2. Indian Wells 2001 – overcoming racist boos to beat Clijsters

Serena Williams is hugged by Venus Williams and Richard Williams after the 2001 Indian Wells final
Williams did not return to play at Indian Wells for another 14 years after the 2001 incident and last year described the incident as “very traumatising”

Seemingly angered by Venus Williams withdrawing injured from the semi-final against her younger sister, the Indian Wells crowd turned on Serena during the final against Belgium’s Kim Clijsters.

It created one of the most extraordinary and uncomfortable atmospheres in tennis history, with the Williams sisters and their dad Richard later reporting they had been racially abused by spectators.

Loud boos greeted the arrival of 19-year-old Williams and her family on to court, while her errors were met by cheers and even after she clinched a comeback victory, there was a far from warm reception.

The way such a young player fought back to beat a top-class opponent in a toxic atmosphere was remarkable.

Williams demonstrated her mental fortitude, which would become a hallmark of her career, by blocking out the noise and producing a steely performance to show another early sign of her greatness.

3. Wimbledon 2002 – becoming world number one

Serena Williams lifts the Wimbledon trophy in 2002
Serena’s straight-set success over Venus in the 2002 Wimbledon final was her 19th victory in a row and extended her win-loss record that season to 36-3

When she started out on tour, Serena Williams felt she would always be known as ‘Venus’s little sister’.

But her father Richard always predicted the younger sibling would emerge as the better player and Serena winning the first of her seven Wimbledon titles was the moment where it felt the transition of power was unequivocally happening.

Hot on the heels of beating Venus in the French Open final, Serena produced a clinical performance that swept aside remaining doubts she was unable to play her best tennis against her older sister.

Significantly, it resulted in the 20-year-old overtaking Venus as world number one, a ranking she retained for another 49 weeks and, in a tally only bettered by Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, held for a total of 319 weeks in her career.

4. Australian Open 2003 – claiming her first Serena Slam

Serena Williams is overcome with emotion during her acceptance speech after winning the 2003 Australian Open
Williams won the title after facing match point in the semi-finals, when she trailed 5-2 in the deciding set against Kim Clijsters

Only six women had ever held all four major titles at the same time, with 21-year-old Williams adding her name to the illustrious list after another emotional win over her older sister in Melbourne.

While not a Grand Slam for the tennis purists – that is reserved for a clean sweep in a calendar year – Williams winning the 2003 Australian Open after lifting the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles in 2002 was dubbed the ‘Serena Slam’.

The magnitude of what Williams achieved, what it meant and the pressure that came with chasing it was unveiled in her victory speech.

“I never get choked up, but I’m really emotional right now,” she said.

5. Australian Open 2007 – returning from the wilderness

Serena Williams falls flat on her back in celebration after winning the 2007 Australian Open
Serena Williams fell flat on her back in celebration after winning the 2007 Australian Open, while the manner of the victory left her opponent Maria Sharapova close to tears

The mid-2000s was one of the most challenging periods of Williams’ career.

Dealing with personal grief after her oldest sister Yetunde Price was killed in a drive-by shooting, and also struggling with injury, the seven-time major champion had briefly dropped outside the world’s top 100 in 2006 and returned to Melbourne as the world number 81.

Disparaging comments had been made about the 25-year-old’s physical shape and lack of preparation, but she fought her way to the final and then produced one of the greatest performances of her career.

With her lethal weapons of pounding serves and crushing returns back to their best, Williams beat soon-to-be world number one Maria Sharapova in a 6-1 6-2 win that took just one hour and three minutes.

6. London 2012 – completing the Golden Slam in both singles and doubles

Serena Williams bites the gold medal she won in the London 2012 Olympic Games singles
Williams won the London 2012 singles gold by beating Maria Sharapova in the final, then won the doubles alongside sister Venus a day later

While Williams had already achieved more than most players could only dream about, there was still one thing missing: an Olympic singles gold medal.

That was the motivating factor which helped the 30-year-old, who spent most of 2011 recovering from a cut to her foot and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, become the first player to complete a career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles.

“I thought: ‘If my career’s over, I have my gold medal and now I have everything,'” she said.

Williams was at her best as she thrashed her old rival Sharapova 6-0 6-1 and celebrated with an iconic post-victory dance on Centre Court.

7. Wimbledon 2015 – winning a second Serena Slam

Serena Williams clenches her fist after winning a point during the 2015 Wimbledon final against Garbine Muguruza
Williams’ second Serena Slam came 12 years after her first, but did not complete the calendar clean sweep after a shock US Open semi-final loss to unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci

One of Williams’ defining features has been the ability to bounce back from adversity seemingly better than ever.

After an erratic performance at Wimbledon in 2014, which drew concern and was later put down to Williams feeling “feverish”, she was soon back to her best and won the US Open title two months later.

That kickstarted another run of major wins and left 33-year-old Williams going into Wimbledon with a second ‘Serena Slam’ in her sights.

At Wimbledon, she was not keen on discussing the looming achievement as she moved through the draw and initially appeared nervous in the final. But she improved to win 6-4 6-4 against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza for her 21st major singles title.

8. Australian Open 2017 – overtaking Graf’s record while pregnant

Venus Williams and Serena Williams pose with their Australian Open trophies after the 2017 final
The Williams sisters have played each other 31 times in competitive matches, with Serena leading the head-to-head 19-12

After equalling Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 majors at Wimbledon in 2016, it seemed a case of when, rather than if, Williams would overtake the German great’s tally.

That moment passed when she lost to Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals, but Williams took her chance at the next opportunity.

A serene path through the Australian Open draw saw the 35-year-old not drop a set, beating sister Venus in a final few had predicted to see.

An even bigger shock was to come.

In April, about 12 weeks after she won the title, Serena revealed she was pregnant. The maths indicated she had been eight weeks into her term when she clinched victory over Venus – making an already-amazing feat even more exceptional.

9. Indian Wells 2018 – returning to the tour after almost dying during childbirth

Serena Williams waves to the crowd in her comeback match from maternity leave at the 2018 Indian Wells tournaments
After delaying a planned return in January, Williams began arguably her most testing comeback at Indian Wells

Five months after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September 2017, Williams revealed she almost died after suffering a pulmonary embolism when the baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

“I am lucky to have survived,” she said.

The 36-year-old managed to fully recover and returned to the court in March 2018.

The competitive comeback started at Indian Wells – where she lost to Venus 17 years on from the incident that sparked their 14-year boycott – and led to appearances in the Wimbledon and US Open finals later that year.

Although Williams lost both of those finals, she had already defied the odds by simply being back on tour and proving she was still among the best.

10. US Open 2022 – the farewell tour

Serena Williams
Serena Williams takes in one final applause on Ashe before bringing down the curtains on her career

It was perhaps a sign of Williams’ stature off-court that it was in Vogue magazine that she announced the US Open would be her final tournament before “evolving away from tennis”.

From that moment, the final Grand Slam of the year became the Serena Show, with celebrities packed into the stands, the same specially-commissioned video montage played before each one of her matches, and her opponent sent on to Arthur Ashe Stadium before her so all the focus could be on Williams for her potential last hurrah.

And despite having played so few matches in recent times, she rose to the occasion – dispatching Danka Kovinic in straight sets in the first round before seeing off second seed Anett Kontaveit.

Her third round-match, and ultimate defeat by Ajla Tomljanovic, saw Williams produce some of her finest tennis in years. Roared on by a partisan crowd on Ashe, she turned back the clock to show glimmers of the player who was once unstoppable for one last time. Or was it?

“There are so many things to be remembered by. Like the fight. I’m such a fighter,” said Williams.

“I just honestly am so grateful that I had this moment and that I’m Serena.”

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