When an athlete becomes a goat, she has finally achieved legendary status. And so, after what was probably the last game in Serena Williams’ career, the English word “GOAT” could be read again and again on social networks when it came to saying goodbye to the 40-year-old tennis player – and honoring her. “GOAT” stands for Greatest of All Time.

Now one can – especially with the German glasses and a Steffi Graf in mind – perhaps still argue about whether Serena Williams was really the best tennis player in history. However, it is undisputed that no other has shaped the sport as much as the soon to be 41-year-old American.

She was able to win 23 Grand Slam titles, chasing Margaret Court’s record in vain until the end. The fact that she has now played her last match at the US Open is only fitting. In 1999, as a teenager, she won her first major tournament in New York. On the night of Saturday she lost this time in the third round to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 5: 7, 7: 6 and 1: 6.

“It was a fun trip. I’m just grateful,” Williams said while still on the pitch, choking back a tear or two. She had previously been celebrated by her fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis arena in the world. And not just in round three, but before that in their matches. The big farewell show after their opening game on Monday, which was carried out despite their advancement, seemed almost surreal.

Coming onto the tennis tour in the late 1990s as the younger and even more talented sister of Venus Williams, Serena still held promise for the future. One she redeemed quickly.

The first US Open victory was followed by the first Serena Slam in 2002/03, she won four Grand Slam titles in a row, although not in one calendar year. She repeated the same feat again in 2014/15. In addition to her 23 individual titles and the Olympic victory in 2012, she won 14 doubles titles at the most important tournaments and won Olympic gold three times – all with her sister Venus and to the delight of her father Richard, who made such a career possible for his two daughters, despite a lot of resistance. In addition, Serena won every Grand Slam tournament once in mixed.

“I feel like I’ve really given and I still give to tennis. The other look, the winning fist, the crazy intensity. “She was “so grateful that I had these moments, that I’m Serena,” she said after her probably last big appearance.

But Williams was more than “just” a special tennis player and maybe that’s why there is little doubt about her status as the greatest of all time. Williams has always raised her voice when it came to standing up for women’s rights and for people of color. She sometimes caused offense and even overshot the target. And yet: she opened doors for others, her young compatriot Coco Gauff put it aptly: “As a woman, especially as a black woman, you sometimes unconsciously set yourself smaller goals. I think Serena taught me that she never did that.”

Her influence grew with her success. Williams dominated her sport at will, focusing on other things early on. In her career, she actually only played more than 70 individual matches a year – for comparison: This was the case with the great Martina Navratilova 13 times.

Williams focused on fashion, has long been a successful entrepreneur and sets the style with her outfits on and off the tennis court. And Serena Williams is a mother. Even if she was denied a title in a Grand Slam tournament in front of her daughter Olympia, she still set an example. Because high-performance sport and starting a family are still not the norm, especially for women.

Now Serena Williams can take care of the Olympics even more. In her farewell announcement in “Vogue” a few weeks ago, she explained that she would not stop, but would now like to develop elsewhere. Unlike many other sports stars, it shouldn’t be difficult for her. A “bright future” lies ahead of her, she said herself.

And yet Serena remained Serena even when she said goodbye, making it clear once again to the world that a Williams doesn’t just happen like that: “I’ve always loved Australia…” she said with regard to the next Grand Slam tournament Beginning of next year in Melbourne. One thing is certain: Serena Williams was always good for surprises – and wants to stay that way.

Anyone who still has doubts about her status as the greatest of all time should probably stick with Tina Turner in her case. “Simply the Best” rang out from the loudspeakers at Arthur Ashe Stadium when she said goodbye to her fans late Friday evening in New York, probably for the last time as an active player.