If there’s a name that deserves a special mention in women’s tennis, it would have to be Serena Williams. She not only revolutionized the game with her dominant displays on the court but also changed how the world viewed women’s tennis.
Her outgoing persona coupled with her eye-catching looks has gone a long way to endear many people to love the game.
She has also won the admiration of her fellow African American athletes considering the fact that she has excelled in a game that was previously regarded as a preserve of white players.
Despite her meteoric rise to fame, her career has also been laden with a dozen of controversies. Here’s the story of a living tennis legend.
Serena’s Early Life
Born September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan, Serena is the last born daughter to Oracene Price and Richard William.
She has a sister, Venus and three half-sisters and three half-brothers from her father’s first marriage.
Her family moved to the gang-stricken suburbs of Compton, California when she was just a baby. At that time, Compton was renowned for its high crime rate, and exchanges of gunfire was a common occurrence.
Nobody could have ever imagined that this seemingly violent neighborhood would give rise to two tennis superstars.
As the story is told, Serena’s father was and still is an ardent tennis fan. He envisioned his daughters becoming tennis superstars since they were toddlers.
He reportedly bought instructional books, several video tutorials and a guide for tumbling mats, so that he could teach his daughter how to play tennis and keep fit.
Serena began intensive training in tennis at a tender age of only three years. She entered her first tournament one and a half years later.
According to her father, Serena won 46 out of 49 tournaments she participated, becoming one of the leading lights of her age group. She grew from strength to strength, emulating her older sister Venus who was also showing great promise in the sport.
In 1991 when Serena was about 10 years old, her father invited renowned tennis teaching pro Rick Macci to Compton to watch his daughters play.
Rick was impressed with what he saw, later absorbing the two sisters at his tennis academy in Florida. The family relocated to Florida, with his father buying a home in Palm Beach Gardens, a few meters from the tennis academy.
At the academy, the sisters had unrestricted access to exceptional training facilities, including the best tennis courts and the best outdoor rubber mats, where they could practice endlessly.
Serena William’s Career
Serena turned pro in 1995 aged 14 years, but she could not participate in pro events as the Women Tennis Association (WTA) rules barred players her age from competing in such events.
She continued honing her skills and her big break came in 1997 when she participated in her first WTA pro event, the Ameritech Cup in Chicago.
She confounded her doubters with breathtaking displays that surpassed her age, by outplaying top-ranked players like Mary Pierce and Monica Seles before succumbing to Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals. That tournament marked her arrival in the big stage.
Her next stop was the Australian Open where she caused another upset by beating Irina Spirlea, then ranked ninth in the world. Her victory put everyone on notice, but she lost to her sister in the next round, in a closely contested matchup.
Nevertheless, she was not perturbed by the loss as she has always looked up to her sister.
One of her quotes is:
“I’ve learned a lot from watching Venus. Her results have encouraged me to work harder so that I can do well, too”.
Her first major singles title came in 1999 when she defeated Martina Hingis in the finals to become the second black woman in history to win a major tennis tournament.
She became unstoppable in subsequent years despite facing a series of injuries to become the world number one in 2002, aged 20. She went on to claim the top ranking position a record six times in her illustrious career.
Serena William’s Achievements and Notable Events
Serena William’s has won 23 grand slams and several other pro titles in her glittering career spanning over two decades. Here is a list of some of her achievements.
• U.S. Open
Serena won her first Grand Slam singles title in 1999 at the U.S. Open. She followed this up with a doubles title, partnering with her sister Venus at the same tournament.
Her next singles title came in 2002. She also won in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
• French Open
Serena has three French Open titles. She won her first title in 2002, defeating her sister Venus Williams in the finals. However, her next French Open singles title came after an eleven-year wait, winning it in 2013 and then in 2015.
• Australian Open
The Australia Open is one of Serena’s favorite tournaments. She won her first Australian Open in 2003.
Interestingly, her next three titles came after every two years, winning in 2005, 2007, and 2009. She also won in 2010, 2015 and 2017.
Most of Serena’s grand slam single titles have come at Wimbledon. Her first Wimbledon title came in 2002 when she beat her sister Venus in the finals.
She successfully defended her title the next year, again beating her sister in the finals. She also won Wimbledon in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Serena Williams has had her fair share of controversies in her illustrious career. She was accused several times of match-fixing, especially when facing her older sister Venus.
She, however, defended herself and her family vehemently stating,
“It never happened.”
In the 2011 U.S. Open finals, she was also involved in a bust-up with the match umpire.
She accused the official of favoring her opponent, even stating,
“I hit a winner and I guess it didn’t count.”
She went on to lose the match to Samantha Stosur.
Recent Years & Current Events
Serena’s latest grand slam title was the 2017 Australian Open, which turned out to be her 23rd grand slam. Astonishingly, she managed to win the title when she was 2-months pregnant.
In a bid to defend her title, she hit the courts again, only to withdraw from the tourney claiming she needed time to recover after giving birth.
She was quoted saying,
“I can compete – but I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.”.
Serena’s glittering career is a story of sheer determination and hard work. When not on the tennis court, she keeps herself fit by working her socks off training on durable playground mats.
She also runs a fashion line and an online franchise that sells her products including interlocking carpet tiles and other items.
Her story is simply inspirational, especially for kids who aspire to become tennis stars one day.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Photos from: zhukovsky / depositphotos.com,
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