Former Wimbledon Champion Michael Stich says tennis will miss Serena Williams when she retires, but that no athlete is bigger than the sport.
Williams has had the most illustrious tennis career of all current players, men or women, winning 23 majors spanning over three decades, as well as 16 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Since the birth of her daughter, Williams has come close to an all-time record-equalling 24 Grand Slam titles on four occasions reaching the final of the Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019 but just falling short.
Now, at the age of 39, speculation is rife that retirement may be on the cards soon for one of tennis's biggest ever stars, especially after a recent emotional exit from the 2021 Australian Open.
Williams got beaten in the semi-finals by Naomi Osaka and made a poignant pause on-court before leaving then had to exit the post-match press conference in tears.
Despite confirmation from Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou that retirement won't be soon, questions still arise about how long she can remain playing at the top level and Stich believes tennis is big enough to handle it.
"The sport is bigger than any athlete," Stich said. "We have seen in the past with Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova during my active period and with Chris Evert and other players since then.
"We've had so many great players before and so many immense personalities that were able to turn this sport into what it is today.
"We have all seen them go by. The sport has seen them go by too.
"This will be the case with Serena Williams, just like it has been before.
"We will all miss her and we will all look back and remember her great successes however we will be happy to see the players that will now be on the court.
"Those players will also be valued in regards to their accomplishments. Therefore I wont worry about that at all."
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