Serena Jameka Williams is a professional tennis player, ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis as of August 2014, a rank she has held 5 times in her career. She is the younger sister of tennis star Venus Williams. She was born on September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan to Richard and Oracene Williams, and is the youngest of their 5 daughters. Richard Williams was a farmer in Louisiana who was an avid tennis fan and wanted to see his daughters succeed as professional tennis players. He bought instructional tapes and books to teach himself and his wife, so they could then teach their daughters in turn.
The family moved to Compton, California when Serena was three years old, where she started training at the run down tennis courts near their house along with her sister Venus. She played her first match at the age of 4 and half years. Both sisters displayed exceptional talent and enrolled in the U.S. junior Tennis Association. By 1991, Serena was ranked number one in the junior under 10 rankings with a win-loss record of 46-3. Although the girls had been dominating the junior circuit, Richard felt that they needed more time to focus on school and less pressure of competing in tournaments, so he withdrew both daughters from junior tournaments and focused on training them at home. He invited a tennis coach named Rick Macci to his home to watch his daughters play. Macci was duly impressed and invited the girls to join his academy in Florida. Subsequently, the family relocated to Florida where the girls enrolled at Macci’s academy and stayed there till 1995. This was also the year that Serena turned pro, and within two years her ranking increased from 304 to 99 which landed her a $12 million shoe deal with Puma.
Several people criticized Richard’s actions in pulling his daughters out of the junior tours and turning them pro, and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) did not let her enter into professional WTA tournaments until 1997 when she was aged 16. She gained prominence in tennis circles however, by beating world number 7 Mary Pierce in the second round and world number 4 Monica Seles in the quarterfinals of The Ameritech Cup in Chicago, before eventually losing to Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals. She won the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title, in 1999 even before her sister Venus had managed to claim a title. This made her the second African-American woman after Althea Gibson in 1958 to win a Grand Slam singles tournament.
Since then, Serena has dominated the game, with 17 singles Grand Slam titles, 15 doubles Grand Slam titles and 2 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles under her belt. Within the women’s singles category, she has won 5 U.S. Open, 5 Wimbledon, 5 Australian Open and 2 French Open titles. Within the women’s doubles category, along with her sister Venus, she has won 2 U.S. Open, 5 Wimbledon, 4 Australian Open and 2 French Open titles. She has also won 3 Olympic Gold Medals in 2000, 2008 and 2012, making her the sixth woman in the open era to complete a Career Grand Slam.
Serena is a fierce competitor and has played against her older sister Venus in a total of 25 professional matches, with a win loss record of 14-11. This includes 8 Grand Slam finals, of which Serena has won 6. Between 2002-2003 the sisters faced each other in 4 consecutive Grand Slam finals, all of which were won by Serena. She is currently ranked 4th in overall singles titles with a total of 17, behind Steffi Graf with 22 titles and Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 titles each.
Serena’s career has been marked with some controversy as well, particularly her tirade against a lines person at the U.S. Open in 2009. She was fined $10,000 on the spot and another $82,500 later for abusing the lineswoman at what she considered a wrong call for a foot fault. She has also had a series of injuries and health scares, including a blood clot found in her lungs. She has suffered from depression, particularly after her sister Yetunde Price was murdered in Los Angeles in 2003. Serena Williams has her own line of clothing, jewelry and shoes and has made appearances on television shows such as “The Simpsons” and “My Wife and Kids”. Her autobiography, titled “Queen of the Court” was published in 2009. Her career winnings total more than $50 million, the highest of any female athlete and the 4th highest amongst tennis athletes of all time.