Serena Williams goes down as one of the greatest athletes of all time, according to Eurosport’s Mats Wilander, who says his admiration grew for the American after she showed her “human” side during her career near-misses.
The 40-year-old looks set to retire after the US Open, having written a first-person piece for Vogue this week in which she stated she will “evolve away” from the sport.
Williams will chase that elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title at Flushing Meadows, which starts on August 29, but her status as a legend in the sport is already sealed.
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And Wilander – a seven-time Grand Slam champion – praised Williams for transcending tennis and elevating the sport to a wider audience, but also for fighting through some “heart-breaking” defeats – including losses in her past four major finals, and the 2015 US Open semi-final which ended her Calendar Grand Slam hopes.
“Serena Williams saying farewell to professional tennis is going to be a sad day, she has meant so much for the sport of tennis. Not just on the women’s side, but the men’s side as well,” Wilander told Eurosport.
“She has transcended the sport and taken tennis into living rooms and TVs that normally would not watch tennis. Serena Williams is considered the greatest female tennis player of all time, maybe the greatest player male or female.
“I remember the heartbreak of her having 23 Grand Slam titles and making a couple of finals and not being able to get that elusive 24th.

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“I also remember when she lost to Roberta Vinci at the US Open [in the semi-finals], when she had a chance to win the Calendar Grand Slam a few years back [in 2015].
“Serena has shown she is one of the greatest athletes of all time in any sport, but she’s also shown that she’s human, and that’s where our passion and admiration for Serena Williams… it really doesn’t end anywhere.”
Williams had herself written in Vogue claiming she could have ended her career on 30-plus slams, while she will soon switch her focus to growing her family and several business ventures once eventually stepping off the court for good.
“She’s going to evolve into other things. We’ve seen how she’s dealing with motherhood and being married,” Wilander added.

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“Great things are still to come for Serena, at this moment I’m assuming the US Open will be her last tournament. If it is, I’m going to be one of the saddest people in the world, but also very proud and honoured to have covered her for so many years for Eurosport.
“Good luck Serena, and thank you for all you have done to our sport.”
Williams lost to Belinda Bencic in Toronto on Wednesday night, her first match since announcing her imminent retirement.
The American could not hold back the tears when presented with a bouquet of flowers on-court, where she addressed the crowd and admitted she is “terrible at goodbyes”.

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"It was a lot of emotions, obviously," she said. "I love playing here, I've always loved playing here.
“I wish I could have played better but Belinda played so well today. It's been an interesting 24 hours.
"As I said in the article, I'm terrible at goodbyes. But, goodbye Toronto."
She added: "I was really happy to be out here today and play in front of you guys, thanks for the support."
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