In every sport there are players who stand out, but not many have been able to change the game. Serena Williams did. The former American women’s tennis player revolutionized women’s tennis along with her older sister Venus, with whom she set up a mighty duo known as the Williams sisters. Here, get to know more about Serena.
Serena Williams is a former American female tennis player widely considered as one of the greatest and most impactful athletes of all time. She was world number 1 of the WTA rankings on several occasions and won 23 Grand Slams singles titles, the most by any tennis player (male or female) in the open era.
Serena was born on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan as the youngest member of five sisters—but only she and Venus were Richard Williams’ daughters, Oracene had three children from a previous marriage.
The Williams family moved together to Compton, California, where Serena and Venus had gotten involved early with tennis, encouraged by both parents—but mostly by Richard. The father of the Williams sisters taught them how to play tennis from the very beginning, taking them to public courts near the house.
Serena’s father looked into different material to instruct his daughters, including tennis books and videos. His intention was to get the best out of them, hopefully helping them succeed as professional tennis players. In fact, the family’s relocation to the dangerous area of Compton apparently had to do with Richard trying to make the Williams sisters understand the value of working hard and getting a proper education.
Serena endured the long hours of practicing and her father’s strict methods from the very beginning, preparing herself to eventually take the tennis world by storm. The movie King Richard takes a deep look into Richard’s methods to make her daughters reach their full potential. It received multiple nominations and Will Smith—who played Richard—won his first Oscar for Best Actor.
The two sisters were notably prodigious, and, when Serena was 10 years old, they moved to Florida to start attending the Rick Macci Tennis Academy. As a junior tennis player, she went on a run of 46-3 and was ranked first in the 10-and-under division of the junior United States Tennis Association.
Serena started her professional career in 1995, a year after Venus. From the very beginning, the world started to notice the strengths of the youngest of the Williams sisters. Serena’s best traits as a player were a powerful serve, great athleticism and strong ground strokes.
Starting below 300th place in the Women’s Tennis Association ranking, it didn’t take long for Serena to climb her way up to the top 100. In 1998, Serena started to write her legacy by winning the mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open. By the end of the year, she already was No. 20 in the WTA Ranking.
Though many predicted Venus would be the first sister to win a Grand Slam singles title, Serena proved them wrong by winning her first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open. This made her the second African-American woman to conquer a Grand Slam, but it also propelled Serena to the fourth spot in the world ranking.
A few months after winning Wimbledon, Serena and Venus Williams teamed up again to claim the gold medal in women’s doubles at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Early in 2001, Serena and Venus became the fifth double team to win all Grand Slam titles by emerging victorious at the Australian Open. The sisters faced each other later that year in the US Open final, where Venus had the upper hand.
However, Serena came back stronger in 2002 by winning the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, beating her sister in all three finals to regain the top spot of the world ranking at the expense of Venus.
Still, there was no rivalry between them, as they teamed up to win the doubles title at Wimbledon. In fact, the Williams sisters lived together in Palm Beach for more than a decade throughout their careers.
The sisters continued to face each other in many singles finals while being teammates at double events. In 2003, Serena extended her winning streak against Venus to win the Australian Open for the first time, completing a career Grand Slam. On top of that, she also became the fifth woman to hold all majors titles simultaneously—a feat dubbed as “Serena Slam” by the media.
The Williams duo, who had won the Australian Open in doubles, also clashed at the Wimbledon final that year, with Serena once again defeating Venus. The sisters, however, endured a tragic loss that year, as half-sister Yetunde Price was murdered in Los Angeles, California.
After winning her second Australian Open in 2005, Serena suffered an injury-marred year in 2006. Consequently, she dropped below the top 10 in the WTA ranking.
The tennis star, however, made an impressive comeback in 2007 by beating Maria Sharapova to win her third Australian Open women’s singles title. Serena eventually made his way back to the top 10, finishing the year in seventh place.
Her resurgence continued the following year, winning the US Open singles titles and reaching the Wimbledon final—losing to Venus. The sisters were also back stronger in 2008. After winning another Grand Slam event together at Wimbledon, Serena and Venus Williams recorded their second gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Williams sisters carried their commanding performances to 2009, winning in doubles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. In singles, Serena also had a remarkable season in which she won in Australia and The Championships. For the second time in her career, Serena finished the year as the world No. 1.
While she retained her Australian Open and Wimbledon titles in 2010, Serena once again succeeded with her sister in doubles. On the other hand, 2011 was a tough year for Serena. The tennis star had to spend time on the sidelines due to different health issues, with doctors finding a blood clot in one of her lungs.
It wasn’t long before she was back at full strength on the tennis court, as Serena made another outstanding comeback in 2012. Shortly after winning at Wimbledon both in singles and doubles, Williams won a gold medal in the singles event of the 2012 London Olympics to become the second woman after Steffi Graf to complete a career Golden Slam. Far from being satisfied, Serena later picked up her 15th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open.
In 2013, Serena won two more Grand Slam tournaments in singles, first at the French Open and later at Flushing Meadows, becoming the oldest US Open winner. She repeated the US Open championship the following year to claim her 18th Grand Slam title—the second most women’s singles titles in the open era along with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
2015 saw an even greater version of Williams, who completed her second career Grand Slam by capturing the first three Grand Slams singles titles of the year while holding the 2014 US Open title.
Serena was unable to repeat such a successful season in 2016 and ended up losing her No. 1 ranking, but she still managed to win at Wimbledon to make it 22 Grand Slam singles titles—tying Steffi Graf’s record.
She would break that record in 2017, beating Venus in the Australian Open final to claim her 23rd Grand Slam championship. Months later, Serena announced she was expecting a baby with his fiance Alexis Ohanian (cofounder of Reddit) and would therefore take a break from tennis.
Serena gave birth to a girl in September, and married Ohanian two months later, inviting celebrities such as Eva Longoria to the wedding in New Orleans. She suffered from complications following the birth of her daughter, and had to stay away from the courts for several months.
Williams returned to the tennis court in March 2018, losing in the fourth round of the French Open. Though she didn’t win a title that year, she reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals.
After losing in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, in 2019 she once again came close to winning both Wimbledon and the US Open, also losing both times in the final. After nearly three years of wait, Serena won a singles title again at the 2020 ASB Classic in New Zealand.
The tennis star made an inspiring run in the 2021 Australian Open, beating Simona Halep to reach the semifinals, but lost to Naomi Osaka. She also competed in Wimbledon and the US Open that year, but injuries forced her to quit both tournaments.
Williams continued to struggle with injuries for much of the 2022 season. She was able to take part at Wimbledon, but couldn’t make it past the first round. In an interview with Vogue Serena revealed that she would retire from tennis after the US Open.
Unsurprisingly, thousands of people attended the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to witness the last dance of the tennis legend. Serena bid farewell to the sport in inspiring fashion, making it to the third round.
Her rise to stardom also enabled Serena to do other activities not related to tennis. Apart from having her own clothing line, Aneres, she appeared on the cover of several magazines and also starred in different TV shows. Her autobiography, titled On the Line, was published in 2009.
Serena Williams has been one of the most impactful athletes in sports history, and, along with her sister Venus, she changed women’s tennis forever.
Watch the best moments of Serena Williams and other great tennis players with The Highlights App. Sign up to the waitlist to be the first to know when the app is available.
Be the first to find out about our upcoming launch.