Famous Female Athlete: Serena Williams

Natalia Kreciglowa '18Assistant Sports Editor

Serena Williams is one of the best athletes the world has ever seen. Although she is only 34 years old, she has won a total of 21 Grand Slam singles titles and 13 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister, Venus. Serena has won four Olympic medals: a gold medal in doubles in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, another doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 and two gold medals in London in 2012, one in doubles and one in singles. The only thing more impressive than her records and statistics is her personal story. Richard Willaims met Oracene Price in 1979 and had one child, Venus, in 1980. They then got married a year after Venus’s birth and had Serena in 1981. The family moved to Compton, Calif., where Richard wrote a 78-page manual on how he would coach his daughters to become the best athletes. He took Serena to the court when she was four years old and began giving her lessons. Serena’s parents were influential to her early career. Her father, Richard, saw Virginia Ruzici playing on television and decided that his future daughters would be tennis players.

When Serena was 10 years old, the family moved to West Palm Beach in Florida to receive additional training from Rick Macci. Serena’s father stopped sending the girls to national junior championships because the girls were exposed to racist comments, and he believed that they should focus on school. In ninth grade, Serena was pulled out of Macci’s school, and her father began to coach her full time. One of Serena’s best quips when she was interviewed by Trans World Sports at the age of 11. She was asked who she would want to be like if she were to become a professional tennis player, and she said, “Well, I would like other people to be like me.”

In 1995, Serena went pro. One year later, she graduated from high school and landed a $12 million sneaker deal with Puma. In 1999, she beat her sister for her first ever Grand Slam, winning the U.S. Open Title. This was the start of the Williams sisters’ presence on the world stage. The tennis community had never seen anything like the game Serena played. She had power, athletic ability, charisma and style. In 2002, Serena defeated Venus and went on to win the French Open, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. In 2003, she won the Australian Open, completing a personal goal now, called the “Serena Slam,” of holding four major titles in the same year. Serena entered a slump at the end of 2003. She underwent knee surgery and grieved the loss of her half-sister, Yetunde Price. Her ranking dropped to 139, and she lost motivation to stay fit. Everybody believed this would be the end of her career.

In 2009, however, Williams traveled to West Africa, and she claimed the trip reignited a competitive fire in her. She won her way back up the rankings, winning singles in both the Australian Open and Wimbledon that year.

Serena caused a bit of controversy in late 2009. She reportedly yelled at a lineswoman during the semifinals of the U.S. Open and lost. She was fined $82,500 for her behavior, the most any athlete has been fined by the Grand Slam committee. In 2012, she lost the first round of the French Open but later went on to win the Wimbledon for the fifth time. At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Serena beat Maria Sharapova to take her first gold medal in women’s singles.

In 2013, she won her second French Open, but a month later, she lost at Wimbledon. At the 2013 U.S. Open, Serena made a strong showing and won after a tough match with Victoria Azarenka. Williams won the U.S. Open again in 2014, winning the final match against her good friend Caroline Wozniacki. In the French Open later that year, Williams suffered through many tough matches to win the title. That was her 20th Grand Slam. She later told the crowd, “When I was a little girl in California, my father and my mother wanted me to play tennis, and now I’m here, with 20 Grand Slam titles.” Later that year, she won at Wimbledon and completed her second “Serena Slam.” In 2015, at the U.S. Open, Serena played against her sister Venus and won. She was only two more wins away from a calendar year Grand Slam, meaning that she won every Grand Slam in 2015. This is a feat only three women have achieved in the sport’s history. However, Serena had an upsetting loss against unseeded Roberta Vinci, ranked 43rd. She will play at the China Open Oct. 5 to 11.