Fans hold signs declaring Serena the GOAT
Serena Williams is an athlete who has transcended her sport

Serena Williams addressed Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam singles titles in her essay announcing her impending retirement.

The Australian Open was won by Williams. The subject of Court's record has followed her wherever she goes. The American has been asked about it many times. The subject of her legacy has been discussed by pundits for a long time.

Some people think I'm not the greatest of all time because I didn't pass Court's record before the Open era began.

I wouldn't lie if I said I didn't want that record. It's obvious that I do.

I'm not thinking about her on a daily basis. I may have thought about it too much.

Williams doesn't allow herself to be defined by this record. She is much more than that.

And it has been argued that Court's record does not accurately represent the changes in professionalism in tennis.

Williams said in her own words that she should have broken the record.

What are the numbers?

She won her first major singles title at her home Slam. She was eight weeks pregnant when she won the last one.

When she won the Australian Open in 1960, she became the first woman to win a singles Slam in her home country.

Grand SlamsMargaret CourtSerena Williams
Australian Open117
French Open53
US Open56

Court is the only woman to have won a calendar Grand Slam. She won 21 of 27 tournaments and 104 of 112 matches.

In her career, Williams has held all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, but missed out on a calendar Slam.

At the Australian Open, Court won 11 titles, while Williams won seven.

Different era, different record?

Before the Open era, Court won most of her major titles.

Professional players were allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments after 1968.

Most majors before the professionalisation of the sport werecontested by amateur athletes. The best players didn't always play at the majors because the Grand Slams didn't offer prize money.

The amateur era saw Court win 13 of her titles. The opposition would not be the best during this time. Even though Court was so dominant, players wouldn't travel to the Australian Open because of the long distance.

Court has excelled on a tennis court. There will be easier draws for Court in the future because of the top players missing tournaments.

It became harder to win as Slam draws grew and more players became professional. They both won 18 major titles between 1974 and 1990. Between 1987 and 1999 she set a record.

Williams broke that record. She has played against many people, including sisters Venus and Kim Clijsters. She has a winning record against them.

It could be argued that this is the standard that Williams should be held to.

When has Williams come close?

Williams has been close to Court's record many times.

  • US Open 2015 - In a loss that she later says broke her heart, the American went down 2-6 6-4 6-4 to Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals. Williams was aiming for a calendar Slam and led 2-0 in the decider before being beaten by the unseeded Italian.
  • Wimbledon 2018 - Williams had dropped just one set at SW19 as she reached her first final since returning from maternity leave. Facing Angelique Kerber, Serena was broken in the opening game of the match and could not find her way back in as Kerber won 6-3 6-3.
  • US Open 2018 - With her opponent Naomi Osaka playing in her first Slam final, Williams was the strong favourite. But in a final dominated by Osaka's clean hitting and Williams' outburst at umpire Carlos Ramos, which sparked controversy for months afterwards, the Japanese player triumphed 6-2 6-4.
  • Australian Open 2019 - Playing Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals, Williams had overturned a first-set deficit and led the deciding set 5-1. However, after rolling her ankle, Williams squandered four match points and six games in a row as Pliskova prevailed 6-4 4-6 7-5.
  • Wimbledon 2019 - Reaching another final on her best surface, Williams was steamrollered 6-2 6-2 by Simona Halep in 56 minutes, with Halep hitting just three unforced errors in the match.
  • US Open 2019 - Once again facing a first-time Slam finalist at Flushing Meadows, Williams fought back from a double break down in the second set but suffered a fourth consecutive Slam final loss as Bianca Andreescu won 6-3 7-5.

Ultimately, does it matter?

Serena's husband wearing a T-shirt supporting her
Williams' husband and support team wore this T-shirt during her 2021 Australian Open semi-final

Since returning from maternity leave, the number 24 has been hanging over her head.

The only reason Williams is still playing is because she beat the record.

I think it's on my shoulders. It's good to be thinking about something. I feel like it's a different burden on my shoulders because I'm used to it now. She said it was more relaxing.

Patrick said that Williams was not as obsessed with 24 as most people in the tennis world, but that it was the only reason she came back to the sport after a near-death experience in childbirth.

In an interview since announcing she would be stepping away from tennis, Williams said she had "already broken the record" - she has, after all, won more majors than any man or woman in the Open era.

Williams will go down as the greatest tennis player of all time regardless of Court's record, even if Court doesn't win many tournaments.

Since her retirement, Court has caused a lot of controversy because of her views on gay marriage and the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer community.

For a long time, Williams has been a figure who does more than just play sports. She and sister Venus have dominated a historically white sport, dealing with racism along the way and inspiring a new generation of players.

In Williams' final Australian Open appearance, her husband wore a t-shirt with an image of her and 'greatest female athlete' splashed across the front. It was clear.

Someone is the greatest of all times. Is it a statistical thing? On and off the field are the marks they make. The way they make someone feel is the way they make somebody feel.

Williams has delighted an entire generation of people. She is the tennis player who people want to see on the biggest stage and who they think has changed her sport for the better.

Does not win a 24 Grand Slam in singles affect that?

She showed up 23 times. It's amazing.

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