THE phrase ‘end of an era’ is used all too often in the world of sport but when it is applied to Serena Williams and her impending retirement, it’s entirely true. 

Williams, to so many people, isn’t just a tennis player, she is tennis. 

Anyone in their mid-twenties or younger, only knows tennis with Serena Williams in it. 

It is 23 years since she won her first grand slam title and since then, in the same way Tiger Woods is in golf, she has been the most prominent name in the sport, or certainly the women’s side of the sport. 

Regardless of whether or not she was winning – regardless or not if she was even playing – Williams was always the biggest name and the biggest story. 

It will take some adjusting to get used to that not being the case. 

Williams penned an article in Vogue magazine revealing that she was “evolving away from tennis” which, in layman’s terms, means she’s retiring. 

It’s coming soon; the US Open, which begins later this month, will almost certainly be her last-ever tournament and it is fitting that the 41-year-old’s final match will be on the courts on which she won her first major title, in 1999 as a 17-year-old. 

Her announcement was neither surprising nor shocking; for well over a year, it has been accepted that she was very nearly at the end of the road and in fact, when she didn’t play a competitive singles match from last year’s Wimbledon to this year’s, it was assumed by many that she would never be seen on court again. 

However, that wasn’t the way Williams wanted to end and she will now go out in the way every athlete wants; on her own terms. 

There are many athletes who have had a significant impact on their sport, but few have been quite as impactful as Williams. 

When she came into the tennis world, alongside her sister Venus, they were the two black faces in a sea of white ones. 

And having hailed from the deprivation of Compton, she didn’t exactly have the type of background that was typical of a tennis player in the 1990s. 

On the court, she moved the women’s game on significantly; her athleticism was unlike anything that had been seen and her ability to combine that with her touch and tactical nous was unique. 

Even these days, there are plenty of players that are as good, or even better, as Williams at these individual elements of the game; none have had the whole package in the way she did. 

Off the court, she did things differently too. She refused to play a full schedule and often was criticised for having too many outside interests away from the tennis court. 

It is almost certain these outside interests were behind her longevity. Her peers are all long gone yet Williams continued to play, and continued to love, competitive tennis into her 40s.  

She is far from perfect, something she acknowledges in her piece in Vogue.  

But for me, and for so many, her positive features and the positive impact she had on the sport far outweigh the negatives. 

Williams became not just the best female tennis player the world has ever seen but also a cultural icon. 

She has been one of the highest-profile back women in the world for twenty years and while she is unlikely to slink into the shadows in retirement, to not think of her as a tennis player any longer will be so strange. 

She talks of how hard it will be for her to hang up her racket, and how much pain this is causing her. 

Tennis will move on without her, and women’s tennis will continue to thrive due, in no small part, to what Williams did in popularising the sport. 

But for me, and for so many others who have followed her journey for almost 25 years, the sport won’t ever be quite the same again. 


The news of the lifetime ban for former athletics coach, Tony Minichiello, was a shocking development this week. 

Minichiello shot to fame after guiding Jessica Ennis-Hill to gold at London 2012 and for some time, he was hailed as one of the greatest coaches in the country. 

However, his fall from grace is now complete, with an investigation having found he had engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour, emotional abuse and bullying, the consequence being his lifetime ban from the sport. 

While this is, clearly, an overwhelmingly disappointing story to emerge, there is a silver lining to the ruling. 

With an individual of the profile of Minichiello having been disciplined in such a manner, the message is sent to others that this behaviour will no longer be tolerated, regardless of who you are, who you coach and the esteem you are held in. 

For so long, high profile and successful individuals have felt protected by their reputations; either abuse won’t be reported or else the victims won’t be believed because of who their allegation is against. 

That Minichiello was, until he stepped back from the spotlight relatively recently, one of the highest profile coaches in British sport, subject to both an investigation and a punishment such as this sends an important signal that no one is protected.  

Clearly, this should always be the case, but it absolutely hasn’t been in the past. 

There will still be coaches who are engaging both in inappropriate behaviour as well as abuse but this ruling should give victims confidence that regardless of who their abuser is, they will be held to account.