For anyone who doesn't follow tennis closely, it may come as a surprise that Serena Williams doesn't hold the record for most Grand Slam wins.
Margaret Court set the record, a controversial Australian player who netted her 24 Grand Slam titles in the 60s and 70s.
Before taking a brief break from tennis to give birth to her daughter in September 2017, Williams looked certain to tie — and even break — Court's record. After all, she had won at least one Grand Slam title every year since 2011 and was just one shy of Court's 24 titles.
But after her fourth straight Grand Slam finals loss on Saturday at the US Open, the tone decidedly changed.
Tennis legend John McEnroe speculated that Williams would retire by the end of 2020. And on Wednesday, Guardian columnist Bryan Armen Graham wrote his belief that "Serena is not going to break this record."
But like many, all three said Williams has already cemented herself as the greatest of all time. Here's why.
A questionable record to beat
For many, Court's 24 Grand Slam wins need an asterisk. That's because 11 of them happened on her home turf, the Australian Open, in a time when — as the New York Times recently pointed out — many players skipped the championship "because it was difficult to travel to and had relatively meager prize money."
Court's career also overlapped with the beginning of the Open Era in 1968, when professional players were first allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments. She won more than half of her Grand Slam before this landmark when she only competed with other amateurs.
(It should also be noted that, when it comes to winning over fans' hearts, Williams has no competition with Court, who is arguably more known for making homophobic comments, than for her tennis success.)
Already a history-maker
With or without tying Court's record, many believe Williams will be remembered as the greatest of all time.
In a column for NBC News, Caira Conner listed just a few of the ways that Williams has made her mark on the sport.
"No other player has reached more U.S. Open finals in the open era. No other player has fought harder, or longer — with perhaps the exception of her phenomenal sister, Venus Williams — for diversity and inclusivity in women's tennis. No other player has been as staunch an advocate for pay equality for black women, not just in tennis, but across all professions. No other player has won a seventh Australian Open while two months pregnant, given birth at age 35, then come back to reach four Grand Slam finals in the two years postpartum," Conner wrote.
Williams is also the oldest woman to have played in a Grand Slam final and one of only two women (with Steffi Graff) to earn the Golden Slam — winning all four Grand Slams plus an Olympic gold medal.
Her influence on inspiring some of the next generation of players shouldn't be discounted either. When Williams and her sister entered the tennis world in the 90s, black teens from Compton were outliers in a sport dominated by white players from privileged backgrounds. Today, some of the sport's up-and-coming stars are black, including Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka, and Sloane Stephens— all three of whom have called the Williams sisters inspirational.
'I just got to keep fighting'
For her part, Serena has made no hints about retiring any time soon, and she seems driven to win more Grand Slams.
After the loss on Saturday, Williams lamented that she is "so close, yet so far away."
"I guess I got to keep going if I want to be a professional tennis player. And I just got to just keep fighting through it," she said.
Williams' performance in the US Open was an improvement over her quick loss to Simona Halep in the Wimbledon finals just two months before.
For The Win's Michelle R. Martinelli on Wednesday broke down Williams' performance in the US Open final as evidence that she's on the up-turn and on track to win another slam.
"She's just so close to putting it all together for another Grand Slam win, and maybe the few months between now and January's Australian Open are exactly what she needs to regroup," Martinelli wrote.