Talk about tennis – and beyond – for most of the past three weeks has focused on Serena Williams and her announcement that she planned to quit playing professional tennis.

All this leads to the US Openthe final Grand Slam tournament of the year, which kicked off on Monday, with Williams due to play their first-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium overnight.

The Associated Press has chronicled her preparation for departure in words and photos since revealing earlier this month that she is preparing to “evolve” away from her career as a professional athlete. This guide offers a look at Williams the player and Williams the person, her accomplishments and influence, as the 40-year-old American prepares to focus on serves and forehands to expand her family and pursue business interests .

THE ANNOUNCEMENT

Williams revealed her plans in a Vogue magazine essay which was released on August 9. She didn’t give a timeline and didn’t even say she was retiring, but that she was “getting away from tennis, into other things that are important to me.”

Along with her business interests, Williams has said she wants to expand her family. She and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have a daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Thursday.

“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think that’s fair,” said Williams, who was pregnant when she won the 2017 Australian Open. for his last Grand Slam trophy. “If I were a man, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife did the physical labor to expand our family.”

FIELD ACHIEVEMENTS

Williams’ 23 Grand Slam singles titles are the most important in the professional era of tennis, which began in 1968. She won 73 singles titles at tour level and was ranked No. 1 for more than six years of weeks.

His greatest success came at the US Open, where his 106 wins were a tournament record. She has reached at least the semi-finals in her last 11 appearances.

Williams also combined with her older sister Venus for 14 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and won four Olympic gold medals.

OFF-SHORT INSPIRATION

Williams’ impact on the black community is indelible. Raised in Compton, Calif., she learned tennis on public courts far from the privileged private clubs that nurtured most American players. She was outspoken on issues such as gun violence.

Williams is also a fashion icon. She appeared everywhere, from magazine covers to red carpets, and “What is Serena wearing?” was sometimes as big a question as “Who is Serena playing?” at a tennis tournament.

She launched a fashion collection in 2018 after collaborations with HSN and Nike.

Many women thought about their own choices they faced in balancing family and career when Williams made his announcement. She was two months pregnant when she won her last major title, but said she couldn’t get pregnant and play again.

RECENT MATCHES

Williams picked up her only singles win of the year the day before her announcement, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the National Bank Women’s Open in Toronto. She hadn’t won a singles match since the 2021 French Open.

Williams was then beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in his next game.

Williams had been out of the tour since an injury in the first round of Wimbledon in 2021 and only returned at this year’s tournament, where she fell 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) against Harmony Tan in the first round.

After the Toronto tournament, Williams lost 6-4, 6-0 to US Open champion Emma Raducanu at the Western and Southern Open.

THE PREPARATION

Williams worked with Rennae Stubbs, who has won four Slam titles in women’s doubles, alongside her coach Eric Hechtman, since last week. She trained for about an hour inside Ashe on Saturday.

Later in the day, it was learned that even if she lost on Monday, Williams’ US Open career wouldn’t be over yet. She and Venus accepted a joker in the women’s doubles tournament.

The Williams sisters will play the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova in the first round. They have won the US Open twice and this will be their first tournament together since the 2018 French Open.

THE FIRST OPPONENT

Danka Kovinic said she was “honoured” face Williams under the bright lights of Ashe. The 27-year-old Montenegrin said she was happy to hear the news of the match after the US Open draw was announced last week.

Ranked 80th in the world, Kovinic said she never had the courage to ask Williams to train, and never even knocked in the stadium which hosts more than 23,000 fans ahead of the tournament. .

Kovinic is only 2-4 at the US Open, but she picked up an impressive Grand Slam victory earlier this year when she beat Raducanu in the second round of the Australian Open.

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More AP coverage of US Open tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports