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‘Champion. Legend’: Oprah, LeBron and Michelle Obama hail Serena Williams’ career

Athletes and friends pay tribute to tennis star’s achievements

What is likely to be the final match of Serena Williams’s glittering career was played out in front of a crowd packed with celebrities, from Spike Lee to her sister Venus. But for those who couldn’t get tickets to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night, there was always Twitter.

Another athlete who can claim to be the greatest in their chosen sport’s history was one of the first to congratulate Williams.

“You’re literally the greatest on and off the court,” wrote Tiger Woods. “Thank you for inspiring all of us to pursue our dreams. I love you little sis!!!!!!”

Oprah Winfrey, who has followed the Williams sisters’ careers closely through the decades, also paid tribute: “25 years. Champion. Shero. Legend forever!” she wrote.

The 40-year-old has met some of the most powerful people on the planet during her time at the top of her sport. Michelle Obama looked to Williams’s life after tennis in her tweet.

“Congrats on an amazing career … How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time,” wrote the former US first lady. “I’m proud of you, my friend—and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.”

Billie Jean King who, like Williams, has combined tennis with activism also spoke of the player’s life off court.

“Her incredible career made its mark on tennis history. And yet her greatest contributions may be yet to come. Thank you, @serenawilliams. Your journey continues,” wrote King.

Andy Roddick, a fellow US Open champion, spoke of the enjoyment he derived from watching Williams’ long career.

“Love you @serenawilliams,” he tweeted. “It’s been the pleasure of a lifetime to watch you become what you have. Can’t wait to see what you do next. Thank you my old friend.”

Venus and Serena have been credited with inspiring a generation of black players to take up tennis. Coco Gauff, who some see as America’s next great player, spoke of the effect Williams had on her, alongside a photo of the player on her wall.

“Serena, THANK YOU. It is because of you I believe in this dream,” wrote the 18-year-old. “The impact you’ve had on me goes beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you, GOAT!”

NBA star LeBron James, one of the few US athletes who can rival Williams’s profile, posted a tribute video to Twitter.

“It’s been an honour to watch your journey,” said the four-time NBA champion. “… I just want to thank you for being this inspiration for so many.”

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