Serena Williams' tennis career will come to an end one day but her determination to fight for equality won't.

On the court, the American left Wimbledon with a whimper as she was thrashed in the final 6-2 6-2 by Romanian Simona Halep. Off the court, Williams was as defiant as ever.

The 37-year-old has never been afraid to stand up for what she believes in and at the end of her press conference after a crushing defeat nobody saw coming, she ended with the words: "The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I'm in my grave."

United States' Serena Williams reacts after losing a point to Romania's Simona Halep, background right, during the women's singles final match. Photo / AP
United States' Serena Williams reacts after losing a point to Romania's Simona Halep, background right, during the women's singles final match. Photo / AP

Williams was responding to a question from a journalist who told her tennis legend Billie Jean King suggested the 23-time major winner should stop trying to be a "celebrity" and concentrate on winning matches.

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Williams has now lost her past three grand slam finals and admitted what was once a habit has become something much harder to reach.

Before the tournament, King said: "She's got business, a baby, she's trying to help gender equity, particularly for women of colour, but all that makes it much harder to commit to winning a grand slam.

"I would like to see her put everything else aside from that.

"I wish she would just make a commitment for the next year-and-a-half to two years and just say, 'I'm going to absolutely devote what's necessary for my tennis so when I look in the mirror when I'm older that I can go back in my mind and know I gave everything I had and be happy'."

Later in the tournament, King added: "Quite frankly, if I were Serena, I would give up being a celebrity for a year-and-a-half."

However, it's important to note while King referenced "gender equity", she never explicitly said Williams should stop fighting for equality.

Romania's Simona Halep hugs United States' Serena Williams after defeating her in the women's singles final match on day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Photo / AP.
Romania's Simona Halep hugs United States' Serena Williams after defeating her in the women's singles final match on day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Photo / AP.

Just as importantly, King also said she had no issue if Williams continued to live her life the way she has been, saying it was merely a wish on her behalf to see the superstar put all her energy into tennis.

"If she's happy doing it this way, it's fine," King said.

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While Williams made it clear she would never give up fighting for women's rights, she didn't suggest where she stood on taking a back seat in other areas of her life to concentrate fully on her tennis.

Williams has always embraced her role as a champion of gender equality and that was on show in a recent essay she penned for Harper's Bazaar in which she addressed her controversial US Open final against Naomi Osaka last year.

Williams was embroiled in huge storm when she accused chair umpire Carlos Ramos of being a "thief" for issuing her with code violations and claimed she was being punished because she was a woman.

While Osaka was in tears over the furore when she received her maiden grand slam trophy, Williams doesn't regret the way she acted, saying it only strengthened her resolve to keep fighting for equality.

"This incident — though excruciating for us to endure — exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day," Williams wrote.

"We are not allowed to have emotions, we are not allowed to be passionate. We are told to sit down and be quiet, which frankly is just not something I'm okay with. It's shameful that our society penalises women just for being themselves.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I've felt a need to voice my opinion and be heard. Some may not like it, and to be honest, that's their prerogative. I respect it. Growing up as the youngest of five girls, I learned that I had to fight for everything I wanted. And I won't ever stop raising my voice against injustice."

Williams is chasing Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles but has fallen short in her recent efforts to draw even with the Australian, missing out again when she was obliterated by Halep. But she maintains being preoccupied with records isn't what's holding her back.

"Someone told me I shouldn't look at the records anymore. I should just focus on my game. That's kind of what I've been doing since I got to 18 (slams)," Williams said after her Wimbledon defeat.

"In the meantime, I got pregnant, had a baby, so ... that definitely plays a little bit into it.

"I don't know. I feel like I'm just really on this journey of just doing the best that I can, playing the best that I can when I can."