Called the greatest female tennis player of all time, the first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the open era, four-time Olympic gold medalist, the highest paid female athlete in 2016
"Serena Williams 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 her 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 third in the Open Era among female players behind Graf and Martina Navratilova. Some 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 pregnancy.
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 3rd 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).
Her total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles marks the record for the most Grand Slam wins by a tennis player in the Open Era, and is second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court (24). She is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and the only player ever to have won two Grand Slams seven times each (7 Wimbledon titles and 7 Australian Open titles). 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 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 the Grand Slams with 316 matches.
She 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. Serena 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 three times (2003, 2010, 2016), and in December 2015, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine…
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, 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 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 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 number-one female player, Heather Watson. Williams has bounced back from a set down to win in 37 Grand Slam matches.
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 is hailed by many coaches, players and sportscasters to be the best female tennis player in the Open Era. Her numerous victories on court and strong character have largely been a positive influence on young African American girls and boys who see Williams as a role model and an ambassador of tennis…
In 2008, as part of the Serena Williams Foundation's work, Williams helped to fund the construction of the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni, Kenya. The Serena Williams Foundation also provides university scholarships for underprivileged students in the United States. In 2016, the Serena Williams Fund partnered with Helping Hands Jamaica to build the Salt Marsh Primary School for Jamaican youth in Trelawny Parish. She received a Celebrity Role Model Award from Avon Foundation in 2003 for work in breast cancer. Williams has also been involved in a number of clinics at schools and community centers, particularly those which have programs focusing on at-risk youth. She has also won the "Young Heroes Award" from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater L.A. and Inland (2003) and the "Family Circle and Prudential Financial Player Who Makes a Difference Award" (2004). In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Williams, along with other ATP and WTA stars, decided to forgo their final day of preparation for the 2010 Australian Open to form a charity event in which all proceeds will go to the Haiti earthquake victims. Serena, along with her sister Venus, is a supporter and contributor of First Serve Miami, a foundation for youth who want to learn tennis but are socially and economically challenged. She has been an International Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF since 2011 and has helped launch UNICEF's Schools for Asia campaign.
In addition to the Serena Williams Fund in 2016, Serena and Venus collaborated on the Williams Sisters Fund to work on philanthropic projects together. Also in 2016, in their childhood home of Compton, California Serena and Venus teamed up to found the Yetunde Price Resource Center, in honor of their late sister. The Resource Center provides services to families affected by community violence.
Williams's return to Indian Wells in 2015 was done in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation to those who might have been denied a fair trial. EJI executive director Bryan Stevenson lauded her courage in supporting his organization. "It's so rare when athletes at the top of their game are willing to embrace a set of issues that, for a lot of people, are edgier", he said. "This is not aid to orphans ... She was standing when a lot of her contemporaries remain seated, speaking up when others are being quiet."
In 2014, Williams began hosting an annual charity run named "The Serena Williams Ultimate Fun Run". The event is in support of the Serena Williams Fund, which helps underprivileged individuals and communities that are affected by senseless violence and to ensure equal access to education of youth.
In 2017, Williams became Ambassador for the Allstate Foundation's Purple Purse project, an initiative to provide financial empowerment to domestic abuse victims. In a press release, Vicky Dinges, Allstate's senior vice president of corporate responsibility, said, "we are thrilled to welcome Serena, a longtime advocate and role model for so many, to the Purple Purse family. Her voice will bring new audiences into this critical conversation.”
Other charitable organizations Williams supports include the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Hearts of Gold, the Common Ground Foundation, the Small Steps Project, the HollyRod Foundation, Beyond the Boroughs National Scholarship Fund, World Education, the Eva Longoria Foundation, the Caliber Foundation and the Cure for MND Foundation” (1)