Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions over the last 15 years from 2002 to 2017. She became the world No. 1 for the first time on July 8, 2002. On the sixth occasion, she held the ranking for 186 consecutive weeks, tying the record set by Steffi Graf for the most consecutive weeks as world No. 1 by a female tennis player. In total, she has been world No. 1 for 319 weeks, which ranks her third in the Open Era among female tennis players behind Graf and Martina Navratilova. Many commentators, players and sports writers regard her as the greatest female tennis player of all time. On April 19, 2017, she announced a hiatus from tennis until 2018 because of her pregnancy.
Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. Her 39 major titles puts her joint-third on the all-time list and second in the Open Era: 23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is the most recent female player to have held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (2002–03 and 2014–15) and the third player to achieve this twice, after Rod Laver and Graf. She is also the most recent player to have won a Grand Slam title on each surface (hard, clay and grass) in one calendar year. She is also, together with her sister Venus, the most recent player to have held all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).
Her total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles marks the record for the most Grand Slam wins in the Open Era, and is second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court (24). She has won an all-time record of 13 Grand Slam singles titles on hard court. Williams holds the Open Era record for most titles won at the Australian Open (7) and shares the Open Era record for most titles won at the US Open with Chris Evert (6). She also holds the all-time record for the most women’s singles matches won at majors with 331 matches.
Williams has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, all with her sister Venus, and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. As a team, she and Venus have the third most women’s doubles Grand Slam titles, behind the 18 titles of Natasha Zvereva (14 with Gigi Fernández) and the record 20 titles won by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Williams is also a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships in the singles division. She has also won four Olympic gold medals, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles—an all-time record shared with her sister, Venus. The arrival of the Williams sisters has been credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour. Earning almost $29 million in prize money and endorsements, Williams was the highest paid female athlete in 2016. She repeated this feat in 2017 when she was the only woman on Forbes’ list of the 100 highest paid athletes with $27 million in prize money and endorsements. She has won the ‘Laureus Sportswoman of the Year’ award four times (2003, 2010, 2016, 2018), and in December 2015, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, to Oracene Price and Richard Williams, and is the youngest of Price’s five daughters: half-sisters Yetunde, Lyndrea, and Isha Price, and full older sister Venus. She also has seven half-siblings from her father. When the children were young, the family moved to Compton, California, where Williams started playing tennis at the age of three. Her father home-schooled Serena and her sister, Venus. While he and subsequently her mother have been the official coaches, other mentors who helped her learn the game included Richard Williams, a Compton man who shared her father’s name and would go on to found The Venus and Serena Williams Tennis/Tutorial Academy.
Williams began 1998 at the Medibank International Sydney. As a qualifier ranked No. 96, she defeated No. 3 Davenport in the quarterfinals, before losing to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the semifinals. Williams made her debut in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open, where she defeated sixth-seeded Irina Spîrlea in the first round, before losing to her sister, Venus, in the second round in the first professional match for the sisters. Williams reached six other quarterfinals during the year, but lost all of them, including her first match against No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis at the Lipton International Players Championships in Key Biscayne, and her second match against Venus at the Italian Open in Rome. She failed to reach the quarterfinals of any Grand Slam tournament the remainder of the year, losing in the fourth round of the French Open to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and the third round of the US Open to Spîrlea. She withdrew from Wimbledon two games into a match with Virginia Ruano Pascual, after straining her calf muscle during the first set. She did, however, win the mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open with Max Mirnyi, completing the Williams family’s sweep of the 1998 mixed doubles Grand Slam tournaments. Williams won her first professional title in doubles in Oklahoma City with Venus, becoming the third pair of sisters to win a WTA title. Williams and her sister won two more doubles titles together during the year. Williams finished the year ranked No. 20 in singles. To date, 1998 is the only year in which Williams failed to win a Major title when she competed at all four majors.
A 16-year-old Serena competed in a tennis “Battle of the Sexes”, along with her sister Venus Williams, against Karsten Braasch at the 1998 Australian Open. At the time Braasch was 203rd in the ATP rankings. The Williams sisters had claimed they could beat any man outside the top 200, and accepted his challenge. Braasch beat both Williams sisters, playing a single set against each. The score vs Serena was 6–1 and vs Venus 6–2. Braasch said afterward, “500 and above, no chance.” The bold teenagers later tweaked the number to beating men outside the top 350.
When Williams was nine, she and her family moved from Compton to West Palm Beach, Florida, so that she could attend the tennis academy of Rick Macci; Macci began to provide additional coaching. Macci did not always agree with Williams’s father, but respected that “he treated his daughters like kids, allowed them to be little girls”. Richard stopped sending his daughters to national junior tennis tournaments when Williams was 10, since he wanted them to go slowly and to focus on school work. Experiences of racism also drove this experience, as Richard Williams had heard white parents talk about the Williams sisters in a derogatory manner during tournaments. At that time, Williams had a 46–3 record on the United States Tennis Association junior tour and was ranked number one among under-10 players in Florida. In 1995, when Williams was in the ninth grade, her father pulled his daughters out of Macci’s academy and, from then on, took over all coaching at their home. When asked in 2000 whether having followed the normal path of playing regularly on the junior circuit would have been beneficial, Williams responded: “Everyone does different things. I think for Venus and I, we just attempted a different road, and it worked for us.”
Williams is primarily a baseline player, and her game is built around taking immediate control of rallies with her powerful and consistent serve, return of serve, and forceful groundstrokes from both her forehand and backhand swings. Williams’s forehand is considered to be among the most powerful shots in the women’s game, as is her double-handed backhand. Williams strikes her backhand groundstroke using an open stance, and uses the same open stance for her forehand. Williams’s aggressive play, a “high risk” style, is balanced in part by her serve, which most say is the greatest in women’s tennis history. She consistently projects great pace and placement with her serves; in the 2013 Australian Open, she had a peak serve speed of 128.6 mph (207.0 km/h) which is the third fastest all-time among female players (only Venus’s 129 mph and Sabine Lisicki’s 131 mph recorded speeds are faster). What makes her serve even more deadly is her ball placement and her ability to consistently place powerful shots with great accuracy. At the 2012 Championships at Wimbledon, she hit a women’s tournament record of 102 aces, which was more than any of the men hit during the two weeks, a rarity given that aces are more common in the men’s game. Williams also possesses a very solid and powerful overhead. Although many think of Williams as only an offensive player,[who?] she also plays a strong defensive game. She has stated that her favorite surface is clay because it gives her extra time to set up her shots.
Williams’s parents wanted their daughter to wait until she was 16 to participate in professional tournaments. However, in 1995 just after turning 14, Williams planned to make her professional debut as a wild-card entry in the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California, but was denied by the WTA due to age-eligibility restrictions of the organization. She subsequently filed an antitrust lawsuit against the women’s tour, but withdrew it at the behest of her parents. Her first professional event was in October 1995 at the Bell Challenge in Quebec, where she used a wild-card entry to circumvent age-eligibility rules. She lost in the first round of qualifying to then 18-year-old American Annie Miller, winning just two games.
Williams is known for producing exceptional comebacks, particularly on the Grand Slam level. She has won three Grand Slam singles titles after saving match points, (the 2003 Australian Open semifinal versus Kim Clijsters, the 2005 Australian Open semifinal versus Maria Sharapova, and the 2009 Wimbledon semifinal versus Elena Dementieva), a feat achieved more often than any other player in history. She also came back from a 3–5 deficit in the third set against Kim Clijsters in the 1999 US Open en route to her first Grand Slam singles title. In the 2012 US Open final against Victoria Azarenka, she was down 3–5 in the third set and found herself two points away from losing the match. Williams then proceeded to win the next 4 games and defeated Azarenka. In the semifinals of the 2015 French Open, Williams was ill and barely able to walk during changeovers, yet beat her opponent, Timea Bacsinszky, 6–0 in the third set. Another improbable win occurred in the third round of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, when she recovered from two breaks of service in the third set to defeat Great Britain’s number-one female player, Heather Watson. Williams has bounced back from a set down to win in 37 Grand Slam matches.
Williams did not play a tournament in 1996. The following year, she lost in the qualifying rounds of three tournaments, before winning her first main-draw match in November at the Ameritech Cup Chicago. Ranked No. 304, she upset No. 7, Mary Pierce, and No. 4, Monica Seles, recording her first career wins over top 10 players and becoming the lowest-ranked player in the Open Era to defeat two top-10 opponents in one tournament. She ultimately lost in the semifinals to No. 5, Lindsay Davenport. She finished 1997 ranked No. 99.
In recent years, Williams has shown an ability to serve aces at critical moments. One of these instances was the 2013 French Open final, where in the last game of the match, she fired three aces, including one which clocked at 123 mph (198 km/h) on match point. She repeated the feat similarly against Angelique Kerber in the finals of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships to tie the Open Era record for Grand Slam singles titles. Williams fired three un-returnable serves in her final service game before winning the match and the title with a casual forehand volley on the next point.
Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined amongst active players. Her record of 39 Grand Slam titles puts her third on the all-time list and second in the Open Era: 23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, and 2 in mixed doubles. She is the most recent female player to have held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (2002–03 and 2014–15) and the third player to achieve this record twice after Rod Laver and Steffi Graf. She is also, together with her sister Venus, the most recent player to have held all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).
Serena Williams 2018
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