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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Serena Williams: Superstar of women’s tennis

One of the greatest professional tennis players, she has won 23 Grand Slam titles, just one short of Australian veteran, Margaret Court. Having held the world’s top position eight times between 2002 & 2017 in singles rankings, she is now placed eighth.

ht-school Updated: Sep 27, 2019 15:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
One of the greatest professional tennis players, Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles and has held the world’s top position right times between 2002 and 2017.
One of the greatest professional tennis players, Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles and has held the world’s top position right times between 2002 and 2017. (Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)
         

Born on September 26, 1981, to tennis coaches, Oracene Price and Richard Williams in Michigan, US, Serena Jameka Williams is the youngest among five sisters including her eldest sibling and tennis star, Venus Williams.

Serena began playing tennis at four and was trained by her father. At nine, she joined Rick Macci’s Tennis Academy. When she was 10, her father stopped her from attending tournaments after she was subjected to racial comments. In 1995, when Serena was in Class 9, her father made her leave Macci’s academy and began to train her.

Career

In October 1995, Serena made her professional debut at the Bell Challenge in Quebec, where she lost to Annie Miller in the qualifying round. In 1997, ranked 304th, Serena upset two top 10 players, Mary Pierce and Monica Seles, in the Ameritech Cup, before losing to No. 5 Lindsay Davenport. By the end of that year, she broke into the top 100 rankings. In 1998, Serena made her Grand Slams debut at the Australian Open. She defeated Romanian Irina Spirlea but lost to her elder sister Venus in the second round. During the same year, the Williams duo won the French Open doubles title, defeating the Swiss-Russian pair of Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova. By the end of 1999, Serena had climbed up to the 29th rank.

Rising up the ranks

In 1999, Serena won her first title in the Open Gaz de France, beating Amelie Mauresmo. The same year, she also won her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open, beating Hingis, thus becoming the second American-African woman to clinch the title, after Althea Gibson in 1958. Serena began the year 2000 losing in or missing major tournaments due to injury. She eventually teamed up with Venus to win the women’s doubles gold in the Sydney Olympics. In year 2002, Serena won three Grand Slam championships -- her first French and Wimbledon titles and the second US Open, beating Venus in all the three tournaments. She also rose to the top position in the ATP ranking. Next year, Serena again defeated Venus en route to the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles. In 2004, a knee injury affected her performance and her world ranking plunged from the very top to No. 10. In 2009, Serena beat Russian Dinara Safina and Venus, to wrest the Australian Open and the Wimbledon titles, respectively, to regain the top rank. In 2011, she took a break for medical treatment after a blood clot was spotted in her lung. In 2013, Williams won the US Open, which was her 17th career Grand Slam title.

Strength to strength

Serena began 2015 by overcoming Russia’s Maria Sharapova to win her sixth Australian Open and then added the French Open and Wimbledon titles to her kitty to complete her second ‘Serena Slam’ (winning all the four Grand Slams in a row).

In 2016, Serena lost all major tourneys except Wimbledon, which was her 22nd Grand Slam title, enabling her to draw level with German Steffi Graf.

In 2017, Serena won the Australian Open, beating Venus again, which took her number of Grand Slams to 23. She is now second only to the legendary Australian Margaret Court, whose 24 Grand Slams is the highest till date.

Interesting facts

1.In 2016, Serena was the highest paid female athlete as she had earned around $29 million. In 2017, she featured on the Forbes’ list of the 100 highest-paid athletes. In 2019 she was on the same list.

2.Known for her philanthropic endeavours, an active voice against racism and promoting education among underprivileged students, Serena was appointed the Unicef goodwill envoy in 2011.

3.In 2009, Serena, along with Venus, bought an American Football team called Miami Dolphins. The sisters became the first black women to own a team in the National Football League.

4.Serena has her own fashion line. In 2004, she launched a designer apparel line called Aneres, which is her first name spelt backwards. Earlier, she had collaborated with leading sports brands such as Puma and Nike for exclusive collections. In 2010, Serena earned a nail art certificate in preparation for her upcoming nail care collection with a company called HairTech.

Sources: www.wtatennis.com, media reports, biography.com and Wikipedia

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 15:22 IST

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