Last week, the tennis world went into a storm when news broke out about Serena Williams’ grass court return. Many speculated we may never see her on a tennis court again. As she tends to do, Serena surprised tennis fans with an Instagram post of her tennis shoes back on the grass courts.
The best part? She’s easing into the first week of her comeback by starting with doubles. Serena tapped World No. 3 Ons Jabeur, the wildly popular Tunisian, as her doubles partner for her first tournament back this week in Eastbourne.
Jabeur is having a career-best year in 2022 with a 22-4 record that includes a title in Berlin last week, a title in Madrid, and runner-up performances in Charleston and Rome. Jabeur’s flashy style, incredible variety, and happy-go-lucky mentality should make the perfect pairing for Serena’s power tennis and help keep her at ease in her first professional match in nearly one year.
The GOAT conversation surrounding Serena largely focuses on her singles accomplishments.
Will she pass Margaret Court’s 24 major titles record? Does she want it too much? Does she even need to prove anything else? All common questions we hear over and over again when analyzing Serena’s legacy in women’s tennis.
In the shadows of Serena’s singles career, however, it’s easy to forget she and Venus are also one of the top doubles teams in WTA history. Here are 10 things you didn’t know (or forgot) about Serena’s doubles career.
1. In Good Company: Top 3 All-Time.
If there was a Mount Rushmore for women’s doubles, Serena and Venus would have prime real estate. With 14 grand slam titles together, The Williams Sisters have won the 3rd most doubles majors of any women’s team in the Open Era.
They sit in good company on WTA’s doubles Mount Rushmore behind doubles legends Martina Navratilova/Pam Shriver (21 major titles) and Gigi Fernandez/Natasha Zvereva (17 major titles).
Despite their sporadic doubles play, Serena and Venus have been the most dominant doubles team of this century by a long shot. The next best teams of the last two decades include Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez (eight majors), Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (five majors), and Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (five majors). On the other hand, Martina Hingis has won 13 women’s doubles majors with a variety of partners.
2. The Best for Last: 14-0 in Major Finals.
Did we mention Serena and Venus are 14-0 in major doubles finals? Casual.
Similar to much of her singles career, Serena always saves her best tennis for the latter stages of big tournaments. Together, she and Venus have won four Australian Open titles, two Roland Garros titles, six Wimbledon titles, and two U.S. Open titles over a 17-year period:
- 1999 – Roland Garros, U.S. Open
- 2000 – Wimbledon
- 2001 – Australian Open
- 2002 – Wimbledon
- 2003 – Australian Open
- 2008 – Wimbledon
- 2009 – Australian Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open
- 2010 – Australian Open, Roland Garros
- 2012 – Wimbledon
- 2016 – Wimbledon
They were only tested in a handful of major finals, winning 10 of 14 finals in comprehensive straight sets. Apart from the majors, Serena has won a total of 23 doubles titles with a 23-2 record in finals. If one thing is certain, she and Venus tend to be more dangerous the deeper they get into a major.
3. Doubles Career Peaks and Valleys.
Beyond the many records and titles, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Serena’s doubles track record is her longevity. Serena’s doubles career spans 25 years with periods of dominance and gaps of inactivity.
- 1999: Serena and Venus won their first major together at Roland Garros in 1999, defeating top rivals Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova in dramatic fashion, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6.
- 1999-2003: The Williams sisters won their first six majors and a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, finishing 66-12 over this five-year period (85% winning percentage).
- 2004-2007: Serena only played one match between 2004-2007 while she suffered from family struggles and health issues.
- 2008-2012: This was the peak of Serena and Venus’ doubles dominance, as they won seven major titles, two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, and became doubles World No. 1 in 2010. During this five-year stretch, they finished with a remarkable 72-7 record (91% winning percentage).
- 2013 – 2020: Serena’s doubles play has been more limited over the last decade with a 19-11 doubles record since 2013. Her most recent major doubles title came alongside Venus at Wimbledon in 2016.
4. Red, White, Blue… and Gold.
There’s something about the Olympics that always brings the most inspired tennis from The Williams Sisters. When asked in media interviews, Serena and Venus have expressed that the Olympics matter just as much, if not more, than the majors among their many career accomplishments.
The Williams sisters have won the doubles gold medal three times in 2000 (Sydney), 2008 (Beijing), and 2012 (London) with a combined Olympic doubles record of 15-1. Their only loss came to the Czech duo of Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova in a surprise first round exit at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Her first Olympic appearance in 2000 didn’t come without controversy, as she was picked ahead of No. 1 doubles player Lisa Raymond (who filed a grievance against the USTA) to grab the last spot on the team. Serena joined Venus, Lindsay Davenport, and Monica Seles on the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney. Not too shabby of an Olympic squad, right?
Of Serena’s four Olympic appearances, her best performance came in 2012 when she won both singles and doubles gold without dropping a set on the grass at the All England Club.
5. Few and Far Between at Fed Cup.
Serena played some of her best tennis playing for the red, white, and blue at the Olympics, but her Fed Cup (now known as the Billie Jean King Cup) participation and performance in doubles has been lackluster for Serena’s standards. After helping the U.S. team lift the trophy in 1999, Serena only played in four more Fed Cup ties in 2003, 2015, 2018, and most recently in 2020 (usually only to meet ITF Olympic qualification criteria).
Her Fed Cup doubles record is currently 3-2, losing her last two matches alongside Venus in 2018 and Alison Riske in 2015. While it’s disappointing Serena didn’t prioritize playing Fed Cup more often, the format and inconvenient schedule can also be partially to blame.
6. Remember When?
Serena had many shining moments at Wimbledon, but there was one year when it was clear something wasn’t right. In 2014, she and Venus were forced to retire down 3-0 against Kristina Barrois/Stefanie Voegele in the second round. Serena was unable to toss the ball properly and double faulted several serves that hit the grass before they went into the net. It was one of the most bizarre and unusual moments of Serena’s career.
7. Meddling in Mixed Doubles.
Serena spent most of her doubles time playing alongside sister Venus, but she also notched a few impressive mixed doubles highlights early in her career. She partnered with Max Mirnyi to win two back-to-back majors at Wimbledon and The U.S. Open in 1998 while finishing as runners-up at Roland Garros in 1999.
Serena also enjoyed a few Hopman Cup stints over the years partnering with fellow Americans James Blake (2003), Mardy Fish (2008) and John Isner (2015).
The most memorable moment of Serena’s mixed doubles career came in 2019, when she partnered with Andy Murray at Wimbledon to the delight of the home British crowd and tennis fans around the globe.
Dubbed on social media as “Ser-Andy” and “MurRena”, Serena and Murray gave the Centre Court crowd its money’s worth by winning their first two matches. Eventually they fell in the Round of 16 to doubles veterans Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares.
8. Doubles Head-to-Heads.
During Serena and Venus’ prime, it had to be frustrating for the top doubles players of the era when they played very little on tour and showed up at the big events to bust up draws and run away with titles. The Williams sisters defeated nearly every top doubles player or team across multiple eras.
Over the course of their major final appearances, they defeated 15 different former No. 1 doubles players: Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Lindsay Davenport, Corina Morariu, Virginia Ruano Pascual, Paola Suarez, Ai Sugiyama, Lisa Raymond, Rennae Stubbs, Sam Stosur, Liezel Huber, Cara Black, Kveta Peschke, Katarina Srebotnik, and Timea Babos.
While Serena enjoyed favorable head to heads against most of her doubles opponents, some players who gave her a run for her doubles money. Lindsay Davenport, who was also one of Serena’s biggest singles rivals, notched the most wins over Serena with a 5-4 doubles H2H (one included a default).
Other players who gave Serena doubles trouble included Elena Vesnina (2-3 record), Andrea Klepac (1-2 record), and Martina Hingis (2-2 record).
9. An Exclusive Doubles Club: “The Serena Six”.
Ons Jabeur will join an exclusive group of players to play doubles alongside Serena Williams. Apart from Venus, Serena has only taken the doubles court with five other WTA players:
- Martina Navratilova – 2022 in Tokyo
- Alexandra Stevenson – 2002 in Leipzig
- Alison Riske – 2015 Fed Cup tie against Italy
- Caroline Wozniacki – 2020 in Auckland (finished as finalists)
- Ons Jabeur – 2022 in Eastbourne
10. Not That We’re Counting…
Throughout Serena’s 25-year doubles career, here are some of the most impressive statistics:
- 14 women’s doubles majors and 2 mixed doubles titles (14-0 in major finals)
- 23 WTA doubles titles (23-2 in finals)
- 190-34 career doubles record
- 72-7 between 2008-2012 (91% winning record)
- 15-1 Olympic Games record with three doubles gold medals
- Doubles No.1 ranking with Venus in 2010
- $94.5M doubles prize money
The takeaway? Serena’s doubles career needs to be celebrated more and is a great example of how top players can elevate doubles by playing more consistently (see Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula).
Regardless of Serena and Jabeur’s result in Eastbourne, Serena’s return to professional tennis is a great way to spotlight doubles and the incredible diversity and global reach of our sport. It’s also a friendly reminder that Serena is one of the greatest doubles players of all time.