The first victory (1997)
Her older sister Venus made her professional debut before Serena, but the younger Williams sibling had long been tipped to become the better player. She was only 16 in 1997 when she recorded her first professional main draw win, at the Ameritech Cup in Chicago. She quickly followed it up with two more victories, including one against Monica Seles, before losing in the semi-finals.
First grand slam title (1999)
Williams won her first title the hard way, beating the world No 4 (Monica Seles), No 2 (Lindsey Davenport) and No 1 (Martina Hingis) on her way to the US Open title in 1999. Hingis had been the best player in the world until the rise of the Williams sisters, and the victory confirmed a new era had begun.
Indian Wells (2001)
The Williams sisters helped change a white-dominated sport but there were ugly incidents along the way. Rumours circulated at Indian Wells in 2001 that Venus had pulled out of a match against Serena in order to avoid facing her sister. Serena was subsequently mercilessly booed by the crowd in her home state during the final against Kim Clijsters. There were also allegations that the sisters were racially abused by some fans. Serena did not return to Indian Well until 2015. Venus returned the following year.
Serena Slam (2003)
Williams couldn’t match Steffi Graf’s achievements in 1988, when the German won all four majors in a calendar year. But she did win four grand slam titles in succession, starting with her first French Open title in 2002 and ending with the Australian Open at the start of 2003. Dubbed the Serena Slam, it confirmed her greatness. Another notable achievement came at the London Olympics in 2012 when she became the first player in history to win all four majors and the Olympics in both singles and doubles over the course of a career.
US Open (2009)
Williams shared two qualities with her compatriot John McEnroe: an intense focus on victory and a temper that often exploded on court. During a tense semi-final against Clijsters at Flushing Meadows in 2009, Williams was called for a debatable foot fault. She turned on the line judge and threatened to shove the ball down her throat. “I know you don’t believe me, but I used to be worse,” Williams said after the match, which she lost. There was more controversy at the US Open in 2018 when she was docked a game in the final after repeated clashes with the umpire, Carlos Ramos. She lost the match to Naomi Osaka and later accused Ramos of sexism.
Australian Open (2017)
Williams passed Graf’s Open era record with her 23rd grand slam singles title after her victory in Melbourne. Margaret Court’s overall record of 24, however, remains just out of reach. Williams’ victory was made all the more remarkable when it was revealed she was eight weeks pregnant at the time.