Serena Williams' tennis career in photos: 11 sports photographers on capturing the GOAT through the years

Serena Williams' tennis career in photos: 11 sports photographers on capturing the GOAT through the years
Serena Williams.
Serena Williams celebrates a win at Wimbledon in 2016.Getty/Clive Brunskill
  • Serena Williams — the 23-time Grand Slam champion widely considered tennis' greatest athlete of all time — stepped off the court for the final time at this year's US Open.

  • Insider spoke with 11 of Getty Images' top sports photographers about the iconic images they've taken of Williams and what it was like to capture her storied tennis career.

  • From the earliest days of her reign atop the sport and her most memorable triumphs to her toughest moments on tour and everything in between, here are some of the most iconic photos of Serena Williams' legendary tennis career with commentary from those behind the lens.

1998: Serena Williams hits a backhand shot during the 1998 US Open.

Serena Williams at the 1998 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"It's been a true honor and privilege photographing Serena all these years, especially during the start of her career. The bead years are a staple. I loved this look — it was great for pictures and so memorable to have seen Serena play at 17 years old. And now, flash forward, to think about all that she has accomplished, disrupted, and changed on and off the court, we're all going to miss her for sure!"

1999: Serena Williams holds up her trophy after winning her very first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open.

Serena Williams of the USA holds up her trophy after winning the Womens Singles during the US Open.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

The year is 1999, and this is the very first of Serena's 23 Grand Slam title runs! This image always screams Venus to me, and although Venus was put into Pro Tour first, Serena ended up winning the sisters' first Grand Slam title.

"At match point, I glanced at the family box and Venus was crying inconsolably, overcome with emotion. Venus had been always touted as the first sister who would win the first Slam. The rest is history as both girls ripped up the WTA Tour venues, amassed five Wimbledon
titles, and became supreme athletes in their own rights."

2002: Serena Williams points to her name on the Women's Singles Champions roll of honor after her first victory at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams points to her name on the Women's Singles Champions roll of honor at Wimbledon.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

From the photographer, Mike Hewitt:

"This image is from Serena's first victory at Wimbledon. The All England Lawn Tennis Club
(AELTC) writes the winner's name on their honors board almost immediately. I was asked by the AELTC to capture the moment as Serena saw her name on the board within hours of the final. Serena had just beat her sister Venus who'd won the last two Wimbledon Singles Finals. She was charming and obviously very excited!"

2004: Serena Williams competes at the 2004 US Open wearing a denim skirt.

Serena Williams at the 2004 US Open.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

From the photographer, Matthew Stockman:

"She's definitely a trendsetter. Even here at the Open, we're always like, 'Oooh, what's she gonna wear?' She definitely keeps you guessing. The game needs personality, and she definitely has that box checked."

2005: Serena Williams in action during her first-round match at the 2005 Australian Open.

Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during her match against Camille Pin of France during day one of the Australian Open.
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

From the photographer, Adam Pretty:

"I was working the court from high above and noticed that Serena's skirt was almost
translucent. I really like capturing shapes and graphics in sports, and Serena presented me with everything I needed. She is one of the best athletes to photograph because of the emotion, energy and dynamic shapes she presents and also because she is just so good."

2011: Serena Williams prepares to serve the ball during her fourth-round match at Wimbledon in 2011.

Serena Williams prepares to serve the ball during her fourth-round match at Wimbledon in 2011.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"Serena has always been a player of detail – from her outfits, jewelry, and details in her nail
colors – which make her so exciting to photograph. This is what I love about Serena! She brings and has brought an incredible fashion sense and elegance to the court, which is so unique to her. And although blood, sweat and tears traditionally wins trophies, Serena brings that all while looking quite stylish."

2012: Serena Williams plays a forehand shot in her first-round match at the 2012 French Open.

Serena Williams at the 2012 French Open.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

From the photographer, Mike Hewitt:

"This image was captured in the late Parisian light at the French Open in 2012. I like the
absolute concentration on her face as she slides in for a volley at the net."

2012: Serena Williams jumps for joy after winning her third-round match at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams jumps for joy after winning her third-round match at Wimbledon in 2012.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"This is an all-time favorite of mine, from Wimbledon 2012. Serena shows just how
much winning her third-round match means to her. And of course, she went on to win Wimbledon a week later!

"Serena even has a copy of this image and signed a large print to me saying she loved the image but next time she would jump higher."

2012: Serena Williams poses with her gold medal after winning the women's singles competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

Serena Williams poses with her gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"I love the expression of happiness on Serena's face in this frame. And no wonder, she had won Wimbledon just three weeks earlier on the same court and now here, in this image, an Olympic champion!"

 

2012: Serena Williams focuses during her second-round match at the 2012 US Open.

Serena Williams focuses during her second-round match at the 2012 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"One thing about Serena is her hair. It's always so dynamic and adds so many layers to the photo."

2013: Serena Williams strikes the ball from behind the baseline during her 2013 US Open semifinal match.

Serena Williams strikes the ball from behind the baseline during her 2013 US Open semifinal match.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"The backlight on Serena here is spectacular, and having the opportunity to shoot the best player ever in this light was a gift."

2013: Serena Williams leaps into the air to celebrate winning the 2013 US Open title.

Serena Williams celebrates winning the 2013 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"This photo is iconic for me, and one I'll always remember. It just shows her athleticism, pure
emotion, explosion, and of course everything that makes Serena so dynamic as a player and athlete."

2014: Serena Williams serves during her first-round match at Wimbledon in 2014.

Serena Williams serves at Wimbledon in 2014.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"Shooting Serena at Wimbledon was a great opportunity for me, especially with a full crowd and beautiful light shining on her as she serves. The green court and stadium seats, with the multi-colors from fans in the background, help contrast Serena's all-white outfit. Her athleticism is on full display here as she strikes the ball with great force."

2014: Serena Williams reacts to winning the 2014 US Open title.

Serena Williams reacts to winning the 2014 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"Here, Serena reacts after defeating Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in the 2014 US Open. I really like this angle from behind the service line. Serena displays raw emotion and I was able to catch her right at the perfect moment while she and her racket are still midair. You can see how much it means to her winning another Grand Slam."

2015: Serena Williams screams after winning a point in her second-round match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, Italy.

Serena Williams screams after winning a point in her second-round match at the 2015 Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, Italy.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

From the photographer, Mike Hewitt:

"Here, Serena is in Rome 2015, venting after winning a point against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. I've always thought about how she must be such an intimidating opponent to face. Serena is also a photographer's dream because of the all the emotion she exudes to energize herself and keep her going throughout matches."

2015: Serena Williams serves the ball during her semifinal match at the French Open.

Serena Williams serves the ball during her semifinal match at the 2015 French Open.
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

From the photographer, Dan Istitene:

"Serena's serve is unmatched. The Parisian light helped with outlining her movement to showcase her power and grace, and the pop of orange from her outfit and blurred background helped with bringing this moment to life through a still shot."

2015: Serena Williams poses with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophy after winning the final at the French Open.

Serena Williams poses with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophy after winning the final at the 2015 French Open.
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

From the photographer, Dan Istitene:

"The 2015 final at Roland Garros brought Serena her third French Open and 20th Grand
Slam title. The beautiful summer conditions for her match against Lucie Safarova must have been a welcome end to what had been an arduous route to the final.

"Battling flu for much of the tournament and pushed to three sets in five of her seven matches, withdrawal was still a consideration on the eve of the final. After letting a lead in the second set slip to take the match to a third, the dominance that we are all so used to witnessing appeared in that final set, transformed out of her frustration and desire to win."

"Watching her joy as she lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and then give it a hug, it was as if the pain and struggle over the past two weeks had never even happened."

2016: Serena Williams lets out a roar after winning a point during the 2016 Wimbledon final.

Serena Williams lets out a roar after winning a point during the 2016 Wimbledon final.
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

From the photographer, Adam Pretty:

"The emotion, passion, and power Serena puts into her game comes spilling out sometimes
during big points and seeing her play at Wimbledon for the first time was a true privilege."

2016: Serena Williams plays a forehand in her first-round match at the Australian Open.

Serena Williams at the 2016 Australian Open.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

From the photographer, Quinn Rooney:

"Serena Williams is probably my favorite athlete in the world to photograph. Round 1 of the
Australian Open usually means a new look for the coming year and this yellow outfit really popped against the blue court. I shot this picture through two railings on the catwalk, which created the black shadows at the top and bottom to frame the colorful action as Serena played a forehand."

2016: Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in her first-round match at the Australian Open.

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in her first-round match at the 2016 Australian Open.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

From the photographer, Quinn Rooney:

"It's very hard to take your camera off Serena Williams whenever she plays. She plays with
such passion and often looks up as she celebrates so shooting from the catwalk is often my favorite position for her matches. I love the color and contrast in this shot as she celebrates winning a point against Camila Giorgi at the 2016 Australian Open."

2016: Serena Williams returns a shot during her fourth-round match at the 2016 US Open.

Serena Williams returns a shot during her fourth-round match at the 2016 US Open.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

From the photographer, Mike Hewitt:

"Looking back at this image, it makes me grateful as a photographer that Serena has been
so into fashion because her colorful outfit here brightened up such a drab day. It was also a rare shot of her at full stretch as she won that particular match fairly easily, going on to reach the semifinal that year."

 

2017: Serena Williams serves in her third-round match at the 2017 Australian Open.

Serena Williams serves in her third-round match at the 2017 Australian Open.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

From the photographer, Cameron Spencer:

"This image of Serena serving captures a few things – her on-court style is trailblazing, her
strength and power is undeniable, and her energy is captivating. Her outfit here was very photogenic, and it's illuminated by the sun as she follows through her service stroke.

"There are so many layers when photographing Serena, and I can hands-down say she is my favorite athlete I have ever photographed."

2017: Serena Williams celebrates winning her quarterfinal match at the 2017 Australian Open.

Serena Williams at the 2017 US Open.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

From the photographer, Quinn Rooney:

"Serena Williams' reactions and emotion makes her a favorite to photograph. I've loved
having the opportunity to shoot her during the strong summer light at the Australian Open where we typically get these dramatic shadows. I shot this image from the catwalk as she celebrated winning her quarterfinal match against Johanna Konta at the 2017 Australian Open."

2017: Serena Williams prepares for a game during her 2017 Australian Open semifinal match.

Serena Williams prepares for a game during her 2017 Australian Open semifinal match.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"For me, this is Serena's quiet time between fighting for points. It tells me she's deep in thought to how she can tactically end the match as quickly as possible in the intense heat of the Rod Laver Arena. Her silhouette, the blue background and angle of the shot really bring you in as viewer."

2017: Serena Williams stretches out to play a backhand during the 2017 Australian Open final.

Serena Williams.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"Melbourne 2017 was full circle, as Serena overcame Venus to win her 23rd Grand Slam
final! I was trying to get the trophy in the back of a backhand image when Serena made this amazing two-handed stretch. The timing was perfect and even better she won the match!"

2017: Serena Williams falls to the floor after winning championship point in the 2017 Australian Open final. She later revealed she was two months pregnant while competing for her 23rd Grand Slam title.

erena Williams falls to the floor after winning championship point in the 2017 Australian Open final.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

From the photographer, Cameron Spencer:

"This photo captures Serena falling to the court in a moment of ecstasy as she wins the
2017 Australian Open Women's Singles final. The emotion is displayed in her face as she reacts.

"Serena wears her heart on her sleeve and as a photographer it is so exciting to shoot. When she celebrates it is often next level. This moment was one of the greatest I was able to witness, shot from the catwalk above Rod Laver Arena."

2017: Serena Williams poses with the Daphne Akhurst Trophy after winning the 2017 Australian Open final.

Serena Williams poses with her trophy after winning the 2017 Australian Open.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

From the photographer, Cameron Spencer:

"This shot is photographed from the roof after Serena won the 2017 Australian Open. She
was smiling up at me and other photographers in the catwalk. I shot this with a 70-200mm,
incorporating the Melbourne logo behind the baseline on the court to place the image and location."

2018: A frustrated Serena Williams kneels on the court after losing a point during the 2018 Wimbledon final.

A frustrated Serena Williams kneels on the court after losing a point during the 2018 Wimbledon final.
Michael Steele/Getty Images

From the photographer, Michael Steele:

"Nothing seemed to click this day for Serena – even with the full support of the crowd, she
couldn't reach her 'A' game — and from the start of the match there was an inevitable feeling that it wasn't to be her moment. In this image, Serena is hunched over with frustration from a missed point at the net in an attempt to vary up her game and move off the baseline. Her body language and facial expression say it all."

2018: Serena Williams hugs Angelique Kerber after losing in the 2018 Wimbledon final.

Serena Williams hugs Angelique Kerber after losing in the 2018 Wimbledon final.
Michael Steele/Getty Images

From the photographer, Michael Steele:

"This wasn't an easy day for Serena in the Wimbledon Final against Germany's Angelique Kerber as she lost in straight sets. Serena's look of resignation as she embraced Kerber at the end of the match sums up her mood and performance in the final."

2018: Serena Williams returns the ball during her first-round match at the 2018 US Open.

Serena Williams during the 2018 US Open.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

From the photographer, Sarah Stier:

"Serena hits with so much power and force – you can see the strength in her arms and this
look of complete intensity on her face. In this particular US Open, Serena wore this awesome outfit with a tutu and 'Serena' on the arm, which adds to so much of the picture and who she is an athlete transcending the sport."

2018: Sisters Venus Williams (left) and Serena Williams change ends during their third-round match at the 2018 US Open.

Serena and Venus Williams at the 2018 US Open.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

From the photographer, Sarah Stier:

"This photo during the 2018 US Open is of Serena walking past Venus on a changeover. For
me, I loved the opportunity to photograph them playing against each other and having a frame where they are on different planes but still resembling a moment of togetherness.

"As a kid, I grew up watching both of them, and I played a bit of tennis growing up having Williams' sisters' tennis rackets. So for me, being able to capture them together is extremely memorable and sentimental."

2018: Serena Williams serves to Naomi Osaka during the 2018 US Open final.

Serena Williams serves to Naomi Osaka during the 2018 US Open final.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"This was shot with a tilt shift lens, which changes the plane of focus on your subject. I focused on Serena serving and everything else faded into a blur. Your eyes here go straight to Serena."

2018: Serena Williams argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her finals match against Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open.

Serena Williams argues with the chair umpire during the 2018 US Open final.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

From the photographer, Sarah Stier:

"Serena is a very emotive, reactive player and incredibly passionate about her sport and
being competitive. This moment in 2018, Serena was arguing with the chair umpire during the match about being coached from the stands, which had caused much controversy.

"As this was happening, I was just taking photos trying to document the moment and story unfolding, so was a bit unclear, like many of the spectators there, to what was actually happening until after the match. This image was a unique capture because not many photographers had this view.

"To me, this photo exemplifies Serena as such a memorable player. She's not perfect, like none of us are, but she has such great care for the sport and has invested decades of her life to it, which I have so much respect for."

2019: Serena Williams looks down at the court during her quarterfinal match at the 2019 Australian Open.

Serena Williams at the 2019 Australian Open.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

From the photographer, Cameron Spencer:

"This is one of my favorite photos of Serena. We are familiar seeing her display her
athleticism on the court, chasing balls down, playing big ground strokes and celebrating huge points, however this photograph is a more intimate and subdued moment during a match in 2019 at the Australian Open.

"Serena was being pushed during her match. She was focusing between games at the
change of ends. I captured this from behind her chair on the umpire's side of the court, with Serena in the shade and the blue court bouncing into her face. I love the colors and the mood in this frame."

2019: Serena Williams plays a backhand during her third-round match at the 2019 French Open.

Serena Williams plays a backhand during her third-round match at the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros.
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

From the photographer, Adam Pretty:

"I was at the French Open photographing Serena on center court. Roland Garros was
halfway through some renovations, so the lighting conditions had changed from previous years. I saw the potential for something pretty nice, so I waited right up the top of the grandstand, and I was really fortunate that no other photographer noticed what might happen.

"Tennis is super competitive, and it is almost impossible to find a patch of light all to yourself, as well as find a spot you need the player to hit a shot in exactly where you want and at the right time in order to capture it.

"It all fell into place for this image, and it has to be one of my favorite-ever images of her. I had been waiting 20 years to capture something like this, so it felt pretty good."

2019: Serena Williams returns a shot during her third-round match at the 2019 US Open.

Serena Williams returns a shot during her third-round match at the 2019 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"Even as a silhouette you can tell it is the mighty Serena Williams painting the court with the
powerful strokes of her racket. She is so fierce and strong in her movements; it was always a pleasure capturing and conveying this through imagery."

2019: Serena Williams hits a shot in full stride during her third-round match at the 2019 US Open.

Serena Williams at the 2019 US Open.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From the photographer, Clive Brunskill:

"This image is from my last time at the US Open, in 2019. Serena went on to lose in the
final eventually against Canadian Bianca Andreescu. But here in this shot, from an earlier round, I just love the contrast of light and shadow as Serena shows all her power and ferocity as she plays another forehand top spin from the baseline!"

2021: Serena Williams hits a shot during her fourth-round match at the 2021 Australian Open.

Serena Williams hits a shot during her fourth-round match at the 2021 Australian Open.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

From the photographer, Cameron Spencer:

"This image was from the 2021 Australian Open. During this tournament, spectators were denied entry to due to COVID-19 restrictions. This enabled us as photographers to shoot from seats in the stands we have previously not been able to work from.

"I love Serena's outfit in this shot, the shape of her arm and racket as she returns a challenging shot. The colors pop on the dark background and the front-lit sun captured a vibrant and visually graphic photo.

"It's sad to think I will never get that opportunity again to photograph her but am grateful to have been able to witness one of the best tennis players in history, at multiple Grand Slams and the Olympic Games."

2022: Serena Williams waves goodbye to the crowd at the 2022 National Bank Open in Toronto, Canada.

Serena Williams waves goodbye to the crowd at the 2022 National Bank Open in Toronto, Canada.
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

From the photographer, Vaughn Ridley:

"Serena Williams made her retirement announcement during the National Bank Open
tennis tournament this August in Toronto, Canada. I knew this would be the last time Serena would walk off a tennis court in Canada.

"When I started my career, one of the things I was taught was when there is a moment unfolding in front of you that could potentially be extra special or iconic, you should 'let it
breathe.' This was going to be one of those very special moments. Therefore, I wanted to capture more than just a tight picture of Serena waving to the crowd.

"I positioned myself where I knew she would walk towards as she left the court for the last time, and I used my 70-200 to capture her full length, while keeping the crowd she was waving to also in the frame. I also wanted to capture some of the branding on the court that shows she is in Toronto, Canada."

2022: Serena Williams offers the crowd at Arthur Ashe her signature twirl after winning her first-round match at the 2022 US Open.

Serena Williams 2022 US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"I chose this image because this has always been the show woman in her. Serena's look
says it all. She seemed to have realized her time was coming to an end and that she would twirl for the crowd no more. It was a really special moment to capture, with so many emotions coming through."

2022: Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in the final match of her 2022 US Open run.

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point in the final match of her 2022 US Open run.
Al Bello/Getty Images

From the photographer, Al Bello:

"This image stands out because Serena was losing the match and on her way out, but she
kept fighting 'til the end. This is how Serena has always played. She gave it her all even when things were not going her way. Serena seems super in tune here, and the viewer is drawn in instantly."

2022: Serena Williams waves to the crowd before leaving the court at the US Open one final time.

Serena Williams waves to the crowd after her round-three loss at the 2022 US Open — likely the final tournament of her career.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

From the photographer, Matthew Stockman:

"She could've easily just had a press conference. I mean, I went to Michael Jordan's press conference for his first retirement. I know he came back, but I remember going to that. It's not that uncommon for an athlete to do.

"But to have her play the US Open, I think that actually says a little bit about her as well. She's doing it, in some ways, for her fans, as well. There are a lot of people who want to see her play at least one last US Open.

"She didn't have to, but she did. I thought it was great that we got to do it one more time."

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