Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player who is ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked her world No. 1 in singles on six separate occasions. She became the world No. 1 for the first time on July 8, 2002, and achieved this ranking for the sixth time on February 18, 2013. She is the reigning champion of the French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic women’s singles and doubles. Williams is popularly regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time.
Williams holds the most major singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female. Her record of 36 major titles puts her fifth on the all-time list and second in the open era with: 21 in singles, 13 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is the most recent player, male or female, to have held all four major singles titles simultaneously (2002–03 and 2014–15), the fifth woman ever to do so and only the third player, male or female, to achieve this record twice after Rod Laver and Steffi Graf. She is also the most recent player, together with her sister Venus Williams, to have held all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).
Her total of 21 Grand Slam singles titles is third on the all-time list behind Margaret Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22), and second in the Open Era, behind only Graf. She is the only tennis player – female or male – to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. She is also the only tennis player to have won 10 Grand Slam singles titles in two separate decades. She has won an all-time record 12 Grand Slam singles titles on hardcourt. Williams holds the Open Era record for most titles at the Australian Open (6) and shares the record for most titles at the US Open with Chris Evert (6).
She has won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus, and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam tournament finals. Williams is also a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships. The arrival of the Williams sisters has been credited with launching a new era of power tennis in the women’s game. Williams has 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 Williams.
Williams was the second-highest paid female athlete in 2015 earning $11.6 million in prize money and $13 million from endorsements. In December 2015 she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Playing style
- 3 Professional career
- 3.1 1995–98: Professional debut
- 3.1.1 Battle of the Sexes: Karsten Braasch vs the Williams sisters
- 3.2 1999–2001: Becoming a top-10 player
- 3.3 2002–03: “Serena Slam”
- 3.4 2004–07: Injuries and the comeback
- 3.5 2008–10: Back to No. 1 and injuries
- 3.6 2011–13: Return to dominance, Career Golden Slam
- 3.7 2014–15: Second “Serena Slam”
- 3.8 2016–present
- 3.1 1995–98: Professional debut
- 4 Rivalries
- 4.1 Serena vs. Venus
- 4.2 Williams vs. Hingis
- 4.3 Williams vs. Capriati
- 4.4 Williams vs. Henin
- 5 Match controversies
- 5.1 Accusations of match fixing
- 5.2 2001 Indian Wells
- 5.3 2004 US Open
- 5.4 2009 US Open
- 5.5 2011 US Open
- 6 Off-court activities
- 6.1 Equipment and endorsements
- 6.2 Fashion
- 6.3 Entertainment
- 6.4 Language fluency
- 6.5 Miami Dolphins venture
- 6.6 Charity work
- 6.7 Writing
- 6.8 Personal life
- 7 Career statistics
- 7.1 Grand Slam tournament performance timeline
- 7.2 Grand Slam tournament finals
- 7.2.1 Singles: 26 (21–5)
- 7.2.2 Women’s doubles: 13 (13–0)
- 7.2.3 Mixed doubles: 4 (2–2)
- 8 Records and achievements
- 9 Filmography
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Works cited
- 13 External links
Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, to Richard Williams and Oracene Price, and is the youngest of Price’s five daughters: half-sisters Yetunde, Lyndrea and Isha Price, and full sister Venus. 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, Oracene, have been the official coaches, other mentors who helped her learn the game included Richard Williams in Compton who would go on to found The Venus and Serena Williams Tennis/Tutorial Academy.
Williams’ family moved from Compton to West Palm Beach, Florida, when she was nine so that she could attend the tennis academy of Rick Macci, who would provide additional coaching. Macci spotted the exceptional talents of the sisters. He did not always agree with Williams’ 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 take it slow and focus on school work. Another factor was racial, as he 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 No. 1 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’ 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’ 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 and 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 Wimbledon Championships, she hit a women’s tournament record of 102 aces which was more than any of the men hit during the two weeks. Williams also possesses a very solid and powerful overhead. Although many think of Williams as only an offensive player, 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 shot.
She has won three Grand Slam singles titles after saving match points, (2003 Australian Open versus Kim Clijsters, 2005 Australian Open versus Maria Sharapova, and 2009 Wimbledon versus Elena Dementieva), more than any other player in history, male or female. She also came back from a 3–5 deficit in the third set against Kim Clijsters in the 1999 US Open and went on to win 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 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 clocked at 123 mph (198 km/h) on match point. In the semi-finals 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 No. 1 female player, Heather Watson. Williams has bounced back from a set down to win in 33 Grand Slam matches.
1995–98: Professional debut
Williams’ first professional event was in September 1995, at the age of 14 to counteract the forthcoming changes to age-eligibility rules, at the Bell Challenge. She lost in the first round of qualifying to Annie Miller, winning just two games.
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 world No. 304, she upset world No. 7 Mary Pierce and world 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 world No. 5 Lindsay Davenport. She finished 1997 ranked world No. 99.
Williams began 1998 at the Medibank International Sydney. As a qualifier ranked world No. 96, she defeated world 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 sister Venus in the second round in the sisters’ first professional match.
Williams reached six other quarterfinals during the year, but lost all of them, including her first match against world No. 1 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 both Wimbledon and the US Open, to Virginia Ruano Pascual and Spîrlea, respectively. 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 world No. 20 in singles.