(Update: This article was updated on September 5, 2022. It originally appeared July 11, 2015.)
In 2015, when tennis icon Serena Williams completed “Serena Slam 2.0” by defeating Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco in the Wimbledon Finals, it marked the second time she’d concurrently held all four major titles (U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon).
The first was in 2002-03.
She’s still the only woman to have held all four titles concurrently on two different occasions.
Now in 2022, twenty years after that first “Serena Slam” started and 27 years after she turned pro, the player with the most major titles in the Open Era—male or female—and the second-most of any era (behind Margaret Court) has hung up her racket.
After losing in the third round of this year’s U.S. Open to Ajla Tomljanovic on September 2, Serena will apparently go into retirement. Her poignant farewell to the crowd of more than 20,000 fans that night at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY pretty much said it all: what a career it’s been!
And we were all better for having witnessed it: the youngest of two Black sisters coming straight outta Compton and whose odds were stacked against them in a sport where they “didn’t belong” and that few people expected they would conquer.
Except they did belong and they conquered…over and over again!
Serena won her first of 23 Grand Slam tournament championships in 1999 (that year’s U.S. Open). To put that in a historical perspective, her wins spanned three distinct decades (the ’90s, ’00s and ’10s) and covered four U.S. Presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump). A win at this year’s Open would have given her four decades and five presidents.
Her wins predate 9/11, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the two U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Her pro career predates Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake/tsunami and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, and the mass school shooting at Columbine, which became the cornerstone of mass murder events that still plague America 23 years later.
When Williams won the U.S. Open in 1999, no one had ever heard of the iPhone or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Dial-up and AOL were still the main means by which we accessed the Internet back then.
And we were all still worried about the potential effects of Y2K, which was about three months away from “dooming” all of our computers and computer-based systems (which never happened of course, although cyber security issues are a bigger threat now than they were in 1999).
Our main means of music consumption in America went from the compact disc, which saw its peak and major decline in the Serena era, to the digital download (via iTunes, Amazon, etc.), to now streaming via platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Vinyl records—a dinosaur when we first heard Serena’s name—has made a resurgence and now exceeds sales of CDs on a regular basis.
When Serena first won, there was no “American Idol” or “The Voice” or “America’s Got Talent” or “The Masked Singer.” The only reality competitions back then were in the form of beauty pageants or sporting events (and the newly created “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” featuring the late Regis Philbin.
Naturally, a lot has changed over the years that span Serena’s career. No one had ever heard of Kanye West or Drake or Taylor Swift when Serena first took home a major trophy. Boy bands (and not of the K-pop variety) were still the rage. The two top acts at that time were N*Sync and Backstreet Boys.
Mainstream R&B was still a thing back then. Groups like Jagged Edge, 112 and 702 were still topping the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Now, R&B groups are considered dinosaurs.
It is in that musical context (since this is in fact a music blog site and not a sports one) that I thought it would be fun to commemorate Serena’s historic career by going through memory lane and recapping all the songs that were Number One in America during each of her Grand Slam tournament wins, from her first U.S. Open trophy in 1999 to her last Australian Open championship in 2017.
Using Billboard’s Hot 100 chart as a reference, this list takes us through history and back to a time when a young Black teenage girl with braids and beads first wowed us with her powerful serve and wicked return game. It takes us up to that last Aussie Open, where a two-months pregnant Williams (unbeknownst to us) defeated her sister Venus in one of the greatest performances of a lifetime, proving once and for all that she is indeed the greatest female athlete of all time… one that we were blessed to witness as she defeated opponent after unfortunate opponent.
So if you’re a fan of mindless trivia and fun facts—both about Serena’s wins and the songs that topped the Billboard chart during each one of them—you’ll enjoy this lighthearted recap.
Scroll below to check out this djrobblog exclusive: a list of all the songs that were at No. 1 in America on the day that Serena Williams won each of her 23 Grand Slam tournaments.
"Bailamos" by Enrique Iglesias was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when Serena Williams won her first women's singles major tournament at the 1999 U.S. Open in Flushing, NY. It was also Enrique's first #1 single on the American pop chart
Ashanti's "Foolish" topped the Hot 100 when Serena won her second major, the 2002 French Open, at Roland Garros in Paris.
Ten rap songs reached #1 during a Serena major win, and Nelly's classic was the first. It was atop the chart the day Ms. Williams won her first (of seven) Wimbledon tournaments on July 6, 2002.
No "Dilemma" for Serena. She won her second U.S. Open while Nelly and Kelly topped the chart with their hit duet (and Nelly's followup to the previous Serena major tourney #1 hit, "Hot in Herre").
Serena Williams completed her career slam by winning her first Australian Open in Melbourne on January 25, 2003. Eminem's hit about losing oneself in the moment was in the midst of a 12-week run atop the Hot 100 chart.
Remember Clay Aiken? Remember this song? Well, he has the honor of having the only American Idol song to top the chart during a Serena major tournament win. It was during Serena's second Wimbledon title in July 2003.
After going more than a year (five majors) without a win, Serena won her seventh major title while this song by Mario topped the pop chart. It was her second Australian Open championship.
Interestingly, there's only been one #1 song by Beyoncé during Serena's major championship weeks, and it's this fittingly titled one - the second consecutive to be co-penned by singer Ne-Yo (who also wrote Mario's "Let Me Love You") - which topped the chart during Serena's '07 Aussie Open win. This slam tournament win also snapped a two-year drought for Serena. Now retired, Serena Williams is indeed irreplaceable!
For awhile, it began to look as if the Aussie Open would be the only major tournament Serena could win anymore. The 2008 event would become her fourth, putting it (temporarily) ahead of the other three majors for Serena. The #1 song that week was “Low”—the first of two for rapper Flo Rida during a Serena championship weekend.
Many artists have peaked and fallen during the 17-year history of Serena's major tourney wins. T.I. was one of the hottest rappers around when his "Whatever You Like" topped the chart. Serena won her first U.S. Open in six years that summer. Nowadays, when he’s not trying his hand at stand-up comedy, T.I. and his wife Tiny are fighting allegations of kidnapping and sexual assault.
While Americans were celebrating our Independence Day holiday in 2009, Serena was reminding the world which American ruled women's tennis with her third Wimbledon title in London, England. Fitting for the fireworks that no doubt marked that weekend, the #1 song was "Boom Boom Pow" by the Peas.
Serena started the new decade and the 2010 season with her fifth Australian Open title. The number one song that week was by singer Ke$ha, who was enjoying her first #1 single with "Tik Tok." By the end of the decade, another TikTok—of the social media platform variety—would take over the world.
The first of two Katy Perry Songs on this list, "California Gurls" ranked #1 during Serena's 2010 Wimbledon win - her fourth. No one drew the connection at the time, but Serena was arguably the most famous “California Gurl” that week!
Another two-year drought for Serena would end with this 5th Wimbledon championship, which occurred while Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen had Americans singing along to "Call Me Maybe," the song of the summer in 2012.
Flo Rida's second #1 during a Serena major win happened when she won the 2012 U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in Queens, NY. It was her fourth U.S. Open win and the 15th overall slam win for the American superstar.
When Serena Williams won the 2013 French Open she had just regained the #1 ranking in women's tennis a few months earlier. It's a status she held for nearly two years straight. The uplifting chart topper that marked the occasion: "Can't Hold Us" by rappers Macklemore and Lewis, a jam that could have easily been applied to Serena and her big sister Venus!
When a singer has ten #1 singles in just under six years, it's not surprising that at least two of them ranked #1 during a Serena major win. Such is the case for Katy Perry, whose "Roar" topped the U.S. charts during the 2013 U.S. Open (Serena's 5th Open Championship).
Serena began her second career "Serena Slam" by winning the 2014 U.S. Open tournament. It was also her most recent U.S. Open win, something she tried to rectify with this year's (2022) tournament. The #1 song during the 2014 win: "Shake It Off" by pop's princess Taylor Swift. Of course, while Serena has moved on, it’ll be a while before we fans can shake off her most recent loss and final tournament.
Chances were that if Serena was going to win a tournament in 2015, "Uptown Funk" would have been the #1 single during it. The song ruled the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks from January to April. Serena's sixth Aussie Open win in Melbourne placed her halfway to the second Serena Slam on January 31.
Arguably the hottest star of 2015, Taylor Swift racked up three #1 singles in under nine months, two of which reigned during Serena Slam wins. "Bad Blood" was the second of those, topping the chart while Serena won that year's French Open on June 6.
Serena's sixth Wimbledon championship title in July 2015 completed her second "Serena Slam" by giving her all four major titles concurrently. It also placed her one major win away from tying Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Slam titles. Perhaps fittingly, the title of the #1 song that week was "See You Again," because she certainly would.
After completing her "Serena Slam" with the 2015 Wimbledon Championship, Serena failed to achieve the calendar slam when she lost that year's U.S. Open. Tabloids and social media attributed the loss to Canadian rapper Drake, who was rumored to be dating Serena and who was present in the stands. Drake had a history of "jinxing" sports outcomes of the team's and players he supported that year. So it's a bit of irony that the #1 song during the week that Serena made history and won her 22nd Grand Slam title in 2016 was by none other than Drake: "One Dance.”
Serena’s last Grand Slam win was in Melbourne while she was eight weeks pregnant. None of us knew it at the time. And few of us, if any, thought that it would be her last major win. She would reach four more Grand Slam finals after giving birth to daughter Olympia, but that elusive 24th trophy would never happen.
It’s that turn of events that makes Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” the last song to top the Billboard Hot 100 during a Serena major championship week.
P.S.: for all the true Serena fans out there, the No. 1 song on the day she was born (9/26/81)? “Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
The No. 1 tune when she turned pro (9/24/95)? “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey
And the No. 1 song when she won her singles tournament Olympic gold medal on August 4, 2012? Same as it was when she took the Wimbledon title just a month earlier: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
4 thoughts on “Tribute: Serena Williams’ 23 Grand Slam wins – and the songs that topped the Billboard charts during each one!”
That was a fun read!