Is this the end of Serena Williams? Tennis great, 40, could bow out the GOAT after Wimbledon even without 24th Slam

WILL 2022 be the year in which Serena Williams finally hangs up her tennis rackets?

At the age of 40, the American has achieved almost everything she has ever wanted to throughout a magnificent career.

Yet with every Slam that passes by these days without her on the entry list, the feeling grows that time will soon be up for the youngest Williams sister.

It was at Wimbledon last year where she left Centre Court in tears after tearing her hamstring just seven games into a first-round clash against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Since then she has missed the Tokyo Olympics, the US Open and injury has now ruled her out of next month’s Australian Open.

Medical experts believe it is not wise for her to compete in Melbourne, a venue where she has won seven singles titles.

Given that clay is not her best surface, and she rarely plays outside of the majors these days, Wimbledon or the US Open could end up being her swansong appearance at the highest level.

The prospect of her ever winning another significant title have all but vanished and it is all about leaving the sport on her terms.

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Obviously if she does finish with 23 Slams then there will always be that nagging sense of: What if?

What if she had managed to win one of the four Slam final appearances after she had given birth in September 2017 to daughter Olympia?

What if she had not received on-court coaching during the 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka and then avoided the red mist that saw her eventually argue with umpire Carlos Ramos in unprecedented meltdown scenes?

What if she had beaten pesky German Angelique Kerber in that Wimbledon final more than three years ago?

Had she drawn level or even overtaken the record number of 24 Slams held since 1973 by Australian Margaret Court, she would have probably retired by now.

But it is that desire, hunger and perhaps misplaced belief that still propels her forward in spite of her body breaking down on regular occurrences.

Legacy-wise, some will argue she is already the greatest female tennis player of all time.

Better than Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

Williams has various interests outside of the sport – most notably her love of fashion – and money-wise, she has banked close to $100million in prize money alone.

That is not withstanding the millions earned in sponsorship and commercial deals.

Plus she is married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who is not short of a bob or two. The retirement fund is well and truly topped up.

Obviously tennis has been a major part of her life since she was child growing up in the rough area of Compton, LA, and her dad Richard had a masterplan to rule the world with her and elder sister Venus.

When the routine and ritual of hitting tennis balls across a net is gone, there will be an enormous void in her life. Like all sportspeople it is the fear of life in retirement that stops them embracing it.

Maybe she will feel that pang of regret that she came close to Court.

But this era of the Williams sisters will go down in history as one of the finest in professional tennis.

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