Williams and Federer: The End of Two Defining Careers

Alexandra Peto, Staff Writer

Last month, September 2022, marked the end of two incredible and renowned tennis careers, those of Serena Williams and Roger Federer. After decades of breaking records, pushing boundaries, and sending shockwaves throughout the world, they decided it was time to step away from competitive tennis, each for their own reasons. While it is bittersweet for the players and for their countless fans all over the world, both players made the decision that they felt was suitable for them and their well being. 

Serena Williams began playing tennis at a young age in Compton, California where she grew up, originally coached by her parents, Richard Williams and Oracene Price. She began her professional career at 14 years old in 1995 and played professionally for 27 years before playing her last match on September 2, 2022. In this span of time, she managed to secure 23 Grand Slam titles, second only to Margaret Court, who won 24. Williams also won four Olympic gold medals and was ranked no. 1 in the world for a total of 319 weeks. Her career was undoubtedly incredible and influenced many, especially young girls who wanted to get involved with tennis. Naomi Osaka, a more recent tennis star has said that “she would not be playing tennis if it weren’t for her”. 

In 2017, Williams and her husband welcomed a daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.. Her growing family, along with a few injuries in the past couple years, have been the main motivating factors in her decision to retire. She has spoken before on the difficulties of balancing motherhood with professional tennis, and announced her decision in a Vogue essay in August, saying that, “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.” She said that while her retirement was not a surprise, it was a very difficult decision to make given that tennis had always been such an important part of her life. The 2022 US Open was the setting of her last professional match, at forty years old, twenty three years after winning her first Grand Slam title at the very same tournament. However, she has announced more recently that she is not retired from playing tennis altogether, and that she has a court at her house that she can continue to play on.

Roger Federer, like Williams, also began playing tennis as a child and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. He grew up in Basel, Switzerland, and played his first professional tournament in 1998 at 17 years old. He spent 24 years on the ATP Tour and won 20 Grand Slam titles. During that time, he also spent 310 weeks as the no. 1 player in the world and became the oldest no. 1 player ever at 36 years old. He was and still is incredibly popular, both for his bewildering skills on the court and for his admirable sportsmanship. In fact, he won the ATP Tour Fans’ Favorite Award a record 18 times. One can be sure that he will go down in the record books. 

In the last couple years of his career, he faced multiple injuries and had to undergo two knee surgeries that took a toll on his body. He recognized at that point that his body had begun to reach its limit, after giving him so much throughout his tennis career. He announced his retirement in an Instagram post in September, saying that, “I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.” His last match was a doubles match with his rival and friend, Rafael Nadal, at the Laver Cup on September 23. While they lost the match, he received a gracious farewell from his fans and peers.

In the span of a month, tennis lost two of its greatest players of all time. One can not help but look in awe at the numerous accolades of their careers. However, Federer and Williams will not be forgotten anytime soon, especially as they turn their attention to other ventures and career paths. They hit the professional tennis world around the same time, and in the years leading to their retirement in 2022, they grew, conquered, shocked, and inspired. They are true examples of the best of the best in the sport, and left lasting impacts that will surely endure.