Serena Williams is an American professional tennis player who is currently ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis. She has won over 20 Grand Slam singles titles and was a gold-medalist at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Williams was born in 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. At the age of 3, the Williams family moved to Compton, California. The area had a high rate of gang activity, and Williams’ father was determined that they should experience what could potentially happen to his daughters if they did not work hard and get an education. Williams and her sister Venus, began practising tennis for two hours a day,
under the instruction of their father, Richard Williams. Richard was also responsible for their education at home. At the age of 4 and a half, Williams entered her first tennis tournament and over the next five years, she won 46 of the 49 competitions she entered and became the number one ranking player in her age group. Williams and her sister received offers for endorsement deals from sporting good companies and these enabled her family to move to West Palm Beach, Florida when she was 9. Williams then began attending Rick Macci’s tennis academy and focusing on her school work. The Williams sisters had been the target of racist derogatory comments during previous tournaments and this, coupled with the fact that Williams’ father did not want his daughters to ‘burn out’ too fast meant that they did not take part in any more junior tournaments after Williams was 10.
In 1995, at the age of 14, Williams left Rick Macci’s academy and became a professional tennis player. Two years later, after becoming the lowest-ranked player in the open era to defeat two top 10 opponents in one tournament, she was ranked No. 99 in the world, up from No. 304 a year before. In 1999, Williams beat her sister in their race to the family’s first Grand Slam win when she won the the U.S. open Gland Slam singles title. She finished the 1999 season as the fourth-ranked women’s player in the world.
In 2000, the Williams sisters won gold medals in the doubles event at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Williams followed this by winning the French Open, the U.S. Open, and Wimbledon in 2002, defeating her sister in the finals of each tournament. A year later, she won the Australian Open, making her one of only 6 women in the open era to complete a career Grand Slam. She also became the fifth woman to hold all Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously and became the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the world. Williams had been determined that she would hold hold all four major titles simultaneously and called her feat “The Serena Slam.”
In August 2003, Williams underwent surgery on her quadriceps tendon in her knee, causing her to spend eight months away from tennis. She made her comeback at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami, winning the tournament for the third consecutive year. Williams then suffered a series of forced withdrawals or losses in tournaments that meant her ranking dropped from the top 10 for the first time since 1999 but turned it around when winning the China Open. She began to explore acting, earning guest roles in the TV show My Wife and Kids, Showtimes Street Time and Law and Order. In 2005, Williams won the Australian Open again, although the following year she was once against plagued with injury. She won her third Australian Open in 2007 and followed this by becoming a gold medalist in doubles tennis for the second time with her sister at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Later that year, Williams won the U.S. Open for a third time and in 2009 she achieved her 10th Grand Slam singles title when winning the Australian Open. She also won her third Wimbledon singles title in 2009 and defended her titles at both tournaments in 2010.
Williams suffered further health issues in 2011, forcing her to take almost a year away from tennis. On her return, she won her fifth Wimbledon singles title and then a month later, won a gold medal in the singles event at the London Olympic Games, becoming the second woman (Steffi Graf is the first) to win a career Golden Slam. Later that year, Williams won her 15th Grand Slam singles title when winning at the U.S. Open. In 2013, she won the French Open singles championship for the second time and her fifth U.S. Open singles title, which she defended successfully in 2014. In 2015, Williams won the French Open and won a straight-set final at Wimbledon to achieve her sixth Wimbledon singles title.
In addition to tennis, Williams has shown talent in both acting, and fashion. She has had clothing lines with Puma and Nike, and runs her own clothing label, Aneres in addition to a signature collection of handbags and jewellery called Signature Statement which is sold through the Home Shopping Network. In 2015, she became the first black female athlete to have a picture by herself on the cover of Vogue for the April 2015 issue of the magazine. That same year, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Williams is also passionate about providing educational opportunities for underprivileged youth around the world, and formed the
The Serena Williams Fund to support her aim. The Fund focuses on providing equal access to education and assisting victims of senseless community violence. It has partnered with other organisations and leaders who are positively impacting communities and has been able to build schools in Kenya, and serving as a UNICEF Global Ambassador, Creating the Serena Scholars to help deserving students with unmet financial need in the US attend college, partnering with the Equal Justice Initiative to raise funds and awareness for the great work among other things. Williams has 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). She has been an International Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF since 2011 and has helped launch UNICEF’s Schools for Asia campaign