LONDON -- Serena Williams may have fallen short of her ultimate championship goal in the final -- a brilliant Simona Halep played a key role in that -- but it was still an incredibly memorable fortnight for Serena at Wimbledon.
Entering the tournament having played in just five events this year and struggling with injuries throughout the season, expectations were uncharacteristically low for the 23-time Grand Slam champion. However, thanks to some stellar singles play and an unexpected partnership in mixed doubles with Andy Murray, Serena was once again one of Wimbledon's brightest stars.
While her "Serandy" run ended in the third round and her hopes for an eighth Wimbledon singles title -- as well as tying Margaret Court's long-standing record for most Grand Slam singles titles ever -- were dashed in the final, there were still plenty of high points, memorable moments and notable quotes along the way.
With so many matches, news conferences and even documented time away from the court, it's hard to pin down her most-talked about -- and defining -- moments from throughout her 2019 Wimbledon campaign, but here are some that certainly stood out on the road to the finals:
Ending with a statement
Having just lost a third Grand Slam title match in 12 months, and facing her final question from the press at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, Williams was asked to reflect on recent comments that Serena should focus solely on tennis in order to achieve a historic, record-equalling 24th major singles title.
Her response was perfect:
Key break, unforced error in the final
After suffering a double-break of serve and dropping the first set in Saturday's final, Williams was serving and locked in a tense fifth game of the second set and facing another break point against Halep, who appeared to be wearing rollerblades in her efforts to cover the entire Centre Court lawn.
Finally, after another intense point and some exceptional defense from her opponent, Serena approached the net and had a chance to calm the storm: a routine backhand down the line to save break point at 15-40. However, with acres of space at her disposal, Williams sent her backhand long and gifted Halep the key break in the second set.
Halep fist-pumped and then consolidated her lead in her next service game for a 4-2 lead, with the last two points again coming from two Williams unforced errors.
Serena dominated from start to finish in her semifinal win over Barbora Strycova on Thursday -- and she seemed to do absolutely everything right. Serena won 6-1, 6-2 and needed less than an hour, even notching two serves at 121 mph.
However, it was a ridiculous rally in the fourth game of the first set that really proved Serena was not playing around -- and was ready to get back to her second straight Wimbledon final. Her defiant scream when she won the point pretty much said it all.
Serena dominates in first set
Serena Williams shows off her power in her 6-1 first set win over Barbora Strycova.
Return to sender
There were a ton of amazing moments during the mixed doubles run with Andy Murray -- "Serandy" (or "Murena," whichever you prefer) -- but when Serena hit a return off of Fabrice Martin's 138 mph serve in their second-round mixed doubles clash, even she looked surprised. It was seriously that incredible. Her facial expression pretty much says it all.
(For contrast, Serena herself has notched the fastest serve on the women's side this tournament at 122 mph, so she doesn't usually face anything quite that fast.)
She seemed equally surprised about her returns throughout the match: "I mean, do not expect that to ever happen again," she said. "I'm convinced that was once in a lifetime. I just never hit returns like that in my life."
Serena had just a few hours between her quarterfinal singles match and her second-round mixed doubles match on Tuesday, but she somehow found time to stay loose on the bike and spend some quality time with her adorable daughter Alexis Olympia -- proving she really might be Superwoman after all.
Acing the test
Alison Riske gave Serena everything she could throw her way in the quarterfinals -- and nearly pulled off the upset in the process -- but the 37-year-old was able to rely on her stellar serve to carry her through. Serena had 19 (!) aces on the day -- including this one to seal the win.
Like so many Americans, Serena was cheering on the U.S. women's soccer team throughout their triumphant run in the World Cup. She talked openly about her admiration for the squad, and their fight for equal pay, after a win of her own in the quarterfinals.
"I obviously was super excited for the U.S. women to win, to do good," she said. "Man, they're like amazing. It's so good to see. They have a whole nation cheering them on. No matter where you are, you're just cheering on the women's U.S. team.
"[I'm] just inspired by what they stand for, taking a stand and fighting for being paid for something that they are world champions at is something that I feel really close to. Really inspired by the team all together."
Serena wins third and decisive set
Serena storms back and wins the third set to defeat Kaja Juvan to advance to the third round at Wimbledon.
Down but not out
Serena lost the first set against 18-year-old qualifier Kaja Juvan in their second-round meeting in just 27 minutes, shocking the capacity crowd on Court No. 1, including her pal Meghan Markle. However, Serena dominated the second set, 6-2, to force the equalizer. While it looked like Serena would keep cruising for a routine win, Juvan fought back and saved two break points to move ahead on serve. But then it was all Serena -- and she won 16 of the next 19 points. Juvan continued to respond until the very end, but Serena found a way to close it out for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
"She played well and I started out a little slow," Serena told the BBC after she walked off court. "I like the pressure. I would rather be in this position than any other, and I play best when I am down sometimes. I am a fighter."
Serena misses backhand in crucial second set
Serena Williams reaches the net but misses a backhand shot as she goes down 3-2 in the second set to Simona Halep.
Serena: Tennis reporter
Serena spoke openly about what a relief it was to have Murray be the target of many of the questions during their postmatch news conferences. However, she did notice how repetitive the line of questioning seemed to be about her partner's hip and his future plans on tour. So she had some fun with it, and gave her own mock interview to Murray on Wednesday after their loss.
Loco for Coco
It's rare for anyone to garner more headlines at a tennis tournament than Serena, but during the first four rounds of Wimbledon, the superstar was completely overshadowed by prodigy Cori "Coco" Gauff.
The 15-year-old knocked off Serena's sister Venus in the first round, and went on to become the darling of the All England Club before falling to Serena's upcoming opponent in the final, Simona Halep, in the fourth round. Always gracious and publicly supportive of her peers, Serena answered so many questions about Gauff over the course of her magical run, and shared her love for Coco's game and her family.
Addressing the US Open drama
Shortly after her quarterfinal win on Tuesday, Harper's Bazaar released a first-person essay written by Serena. In the piece, she talked about the controversial 2018 US Open final with Naomi Osaka, and the penalties she accrued during the match, and how she struggled to find peace for some time after.
"I started seeing a therapist. I was searching for answers, and although I felt like I was making progress, I still wasn't ready to pick up a racket," she wrote. "Finally I realized that there was only one way for me to move forward. It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most."
In this candid, first-person essay, @serenawilliams opens up about last year's controversial match at the US Open-and why she'll never regret using her voice to speak out against injustice. https://t.co/ponD4BGMie— Harper's Bazaar (@harpersbazaarus) July 9, 2019
Serena went on to share the apology she sent Osaka, who was eliminated in Wimbledon's first round, and the response she received from the Japanese star.
The article received a massive response, both at Wimbledon and beyond, and she addressed the timing and her reasons for wanting to write it.
"[The release] was actually planned months ago," she said. "It wasn't like I was going to plan the release of it. I wasn't quite sure when the actual magazine was going to come out. It was all coincidental.
"Yeah, I didn't write that last night or anything. Obviously someone on my social team put it out during the match."
When asked about the article again on Wednesday, she declined to comment further.
Did clearing her conscience from her last major final pave the way for her to win at Wimbledon? We'll have to wait and see.