Serena Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player who is considered by many to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Coached by her father, Serena made her professional debut in 1995 at the age of 14. In 1999, she won her first Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open becoming the second African American woman to do so and the first in the Open Era. The “Open Era” began in 1968 when Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs. Revolutionizing women’s tennis with her powerful style of play, Serena went on the break numerous records. Among other things, she has the most singles Grand Slam titles in the Open Era; is the only tennis player in history to achieve the career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles; and jointly holds the record for longest run as the No. 1 ranked female player. Apart from singles, Serena has combined with her elder sister Venus Williams to win 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. Here are the 10 major accomplishments of Serena Williams.
#1 SHE WAS FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLE IN OPEN ERA
At the age of 14, Serena Williams made her professional debut in October 1995 at the Bell Challenge in Quebec. However, she lost in the first round of qualifying to Annie Miller, who was 18 years old then. Serena recorded her first major wins at the Ameritech Cup Chicago in 1997. Ranked No. 304, she upset No. 7 Mary Pierce and No. 4 Monica Seles. These were her first wins over top 10 players. Moreover, this made Serena the lowest-ranked player in the Open Era to defeat two top-10 opponents in one tournament. She lost in the semifinals to No. 5 Lindsay Davenport. In 1999, Serena won her first professional singles title by defeating Amélie Mauresmo in the final of the Open Gaz de France in Paris. The 1999 U.S. Open may be considered as the breakthrough tournament of Williams. She stormed into the semifinal defeating Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martínez and Monica Seles in succession. In the semis, Serena defeated the defending champion Lindsay Davenport. In the final, she defeated the No.1 ranked Martina Hingis 6-3, 7-6 to win her first Grand Slam singles title. This made her the second African-American woman, after Althea Gibson in 1958, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament.
#2 SHE BECAME THIRD AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO HOLD THE NO. 1 RANKING
In 2002, at the Miami Masters, Serena defeated No. 3 Martina Hingis, in the quarters; No. 2 Venus in the semis; and the top-ranked player, Jennifer Capriati, in the final. This made her the third player in the Open Era to defeat the top 3 ranked players in a single tournament. At the French Open, Serena was the third seed. She defeated defending champion Capriati in the semifinals and her sister Venus in the final to win her second Grand Slam singles title. Ranked No. 2, Serena then went on to win the 2002 Wimbledon singles title by defeating Venus in the final. This was also the first time she won a Grand Slam singles title without dropping a set. Moreover, victory at Wimbledon made Serena the world No. 1 Ranked player for the first time. This made Serena the third African American woman to hold that ranking, after Althea Gibson and her sister Venus Williams. At the 2002 U.S. Open, Serena defeated Venus in the finals to win the singles title. This made her the first woman to win three Grand Slam singles titles in one year since Martina Hingis in 1997. Moreover, she became only the third player in tennis history to win the “Surface Slam”; that is three Slam titles on three surfaces in the same calendar year. The first two were Martina Navratilova (1984) and Steffi Graf (1993, 1995, 1996). Serena finished 2002 with a 56–5 W/L record, 8 singles titles and the No. 1 ranking
#3 SHE IS THE SECOND WOMAN TO HOLD ALL THE FOUR SLAMS SIMULTANEOUSLY TWICE
Serena followed up her three grand slam titles in 2002 with a win in the 2003 Australian Open. She, for the fourth Grand Slam in succession, defeated her sister Venus in the final. Her win in the Australian Open made Serena the sixth woman in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam; that is, winning all the four Grand Slams: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. The first five women to achieve this feat were Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Moreover, Serena became the fifth woman to hold all Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously, joining Maureen Connolly Brinker, Court, Graf and Navratilova. Serena repeated this spectacular feat in 2014–15. This made her the third player in tennis history to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously twice; after Rod Laver and Steffi Graf.
#4 SHE WON THE 2007 AUSTRALIAN OPEN DESPITE BEING UNSEEDED
After a stellar start; injuries, among other things, led to a decline in the career of Serena Williams in the period 2004 to 2007. By the time Serena entered the 2007 Australian Open, she had sat out off 5 of the previous 13 major tournaments; and her ranking had fallen below the top 100. There was much pressure on Williams to perform well. In the third round of the tournament, she was two points from being eliminated in the match against Nadia Petrova. However, she fought back to win in three sets. In the final of the tournament, Serena was up against rival Maria Sharapova and the latter was a favorite to win it according to press and experts. But, Serena demolished Sharapova in the final losing just three games in a 6–1, 6–2 victory. Her performance in the final was described in the press as “one of the best performances of her career” and “arguably the most powerful display ever seen in women’s tennis”. Her victory at the 2007 Australian Open made Serena the first unseeded player to win the tournament since Christine O’Neil in 1978.
#5 SHE COMPLETED THE CAREER GOLDEN SLAM BY WINNING AT THE 2012 OLYMPICS
At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Serena, along with her sister Venus, won the gold medal in the doubles event. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Venus and Serena again won the doubles beating Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual in the final. At the 2012 Olympics in London, the duo repeated the feat, winning their third gold medal in the doubles event. Although Venus had won the Olympic singles gold medal, Serena was yet to do so. In the 2012 Olympics, she defeated arch-rival Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in the final to win her first Olympic Gold Medal in the singles event. Serena has thus won four Olympic gold medals, an all-time record she shares with her sister, Venus. Moreover, by winning the singles Gold Medal, she completed the career Golden Slam; that is winning all the four Grand Slams as well as the Olympic Gold. Serena Williams is one of only two women to win a career Golden Slam; the other being Steffi Graf. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the William sisters couldn’t add to their tally of golds. Moreover, their 15–0 winning streak at the doubles came to an end.
#6 SHE HAS WON A RECORD 23 GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLES
Serena’s victory at the 2014 U.S. Open took the number of her Grand Slam singles titles to 18. This tied her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the second highest women’s singles total in the Open Era. At the 2016 Wimbledon, Serena defeated Angelique Kerber to win her 22nd Grand Slam. She thus equaled the Open Era record for most singles Grand Slam titles, held by Steffi Graf. In 2017, Serena Williams won her 7th Australian Open by defeating her sister in the final. This is her latest victory at a Grand Slam. Moreover, this was her 23rd Grand-Slam singles title in total. A remarkable thing about this achievement was that Serena was at least eight weeks pregnant during her triumph. The 23 Grand Slam singles titles won by Serena Williams is the most by any player, male or female, in the Open Era. Her record is also the second-most of all time behind Margaret Court (24).
#7 SHE JOINTLY HOLDS THE RECORD FOR LONGEST RUN AS NO. 1 RANKED FEMALE PLAYER
Serena Williams reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time on July 8, 2002. In 2014, Serena began as well as ended the year as the No. 1 ranked player. She thus became the first player since Steffi Graf in 1996 to hold the No. 1 ranking for the entire calendar year. In 2015, Williams held the No. 1 ranking the entire season for the second consecutive year. In February 2016, Serena passed the mark set by Navratilova of 156 to have the second-longest run in WTA history behind Steffi Graf’s 186. The week of September 5, 2016, marked Williams’s 186th consecutive week ranked No. 1, equaling Graf’s record for longest run in WTA history. However, she lost the No. 1 ranking after that ending her run with the record tied. Serena has been ranked No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017. In total, she has been No. 1 for 319 weeks, which ranks third among females in the Open Era behind Graf and Navratilova. Graf has held the position for 377 weeks while Navratilova has held it for 332 weeks.
#8 SHE HAS WON 14 GRAND SLAM WOMEN’S DOUBLES ALONG WITH VENUS
Apart from being a stellar singles champion, Serena also holds a number of records in doubles, along with her sister Venus. Venus and Serena have been playing doubles together off and on since 1997. Their first major success came at the French Open of 1999 when they lifted a Grand Slam trophy for the first time. Venus was 18 while Serena was 17 at the time. By winning the 2001 Australian Open, the duo completed the Career doubles grand slam. Moreover, as they had already won the Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympics, they also completed a Career doubles golden slam. Together, Venus and Serena, have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. This is the third most in women’s doubles behind the 18 titles of Natasha Zvereva (14 with Gigi Fernández) and the record 20 titles won by Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Venus and Serena have a 125-14 win loss record at grand slams. Moreover, they have never lost a Grand Slam final.
#9 SHE HAS THE THIRD MOST GRAND SLAM TITLES COMBINED
In total, Serena Williams has won 39 Grand Slam titles: 23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles and 2 in mixed doubles. Margaret Court leads the all time list with 64 titles; Martina Navratilova is second with 59; while Serena is third on the list sharing her position with Billie Jean King, who also has 39 Grand Slam titles to her name. In U.S. Open singles, Serena has won 6 titles, which ties her with Chris Evert as the most in the Open Era. At Australian Open, her 7 singles titles are the most by anyone in the Open Era. Thus, Serena has won a record of 13 Grand Slam singles titles on hard court. Serena has won 7 Wimbledon women’s singles titles. The record is held by Navratilova, who has 9. At French Open, she has won 3 singles titles. Chris Evert holds the record with 7 titles. Serena also holds the record for the most women’s singles matches won at majors with 351 wins. In double’s, Venus and Serena have won 14 Grand Slam titles: 6 Wimbledon Championships, 4 Australian Open, 2 U.S. Open and 2 French Open. Serena Williams is the only tennis player ever to achieve the career Golden slam in both singles and doubles.
#10 SHE WAS SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR IN 2015
Due to her astonishing achievements, Serena Williams has won a number of notable awards. In 1998, she won the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Newcomer of the Year while, the following year, she won the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year. She has won the WTA Player of the Year award 7 times, which is the most after Steffi Graf. Serena has won the Best Female Tennis Player ESPY Award on 10 occasions and the Best Female Athlete ESPY Award on two occasions in 2003 and 2013. In 2003, along with her sister Venus, she won the NAACP Image Award – President’s Award. She has won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year four times in 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2018. Moreover, she was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2002 and 2009. In 2015, Serena was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. Earning almost $29 million, Serena Williams was the highest paid female athlete in 2016. In 2017, she was the only woman on Forbes’ list of the 100 highest paid athletes. In 2019, she was ranked 63rd in Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list.