- 1. Early life
Serena Jameka Williams is an American professional tennis player. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most by any player in the Open Era, and the second-most of all time behind Margaret Court (24). The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranked her singles world No. 1 on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017. On her sixth occasion, she held the ranking for 186 consecutive weeks, tying the record set by Steffi Graf. In total, she has been WTA No. 1 for 319 weeks, which ranks third since WTA Rankings began behind Graf and Martina Navratilova. She is the only American player, male or female, to win more than 20 majors.
Williams is widely considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She holds the most major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players, with 39:23 in singles, 14 in women's doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is joint-third on the all-time list and second in the Open Era for total major titles. She is the most recent woman to simultaneously hold all four major singles titles (2002–03 and 2014–15) and the third person to achieve this twice, after Rod Laver and Graf. She is also the most recent woman to win the Surface Slam (major titles on hard, clay and grass in the same calendar year), doing so in 2015. She is also, with her older sister Venus, the most recent player to have held all four Grand Slam women's doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).
Williams has won a record 13 Grand Slam singles titles on hard court. She holds the Open Era record for most women's singles titles at the Australian Open (7) and shares with Chris Evert the Open Era record for most titles won at the US Open (6). She also holds the records for the most women's singles matches won at majors (365) and most singles majors won since turning 30 years old (10). She is the only tennis player, male or female, to win three of the four Grand Slams at least 6 times. She is also a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships in the singles division.
She has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, all with her sister Venus; they are unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. As a team, they 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. She and Venus are the only tennis players in history with four Olympic gold medals, and to win Olympic gold in the same event on three occasions. They are the only Open Era women tennis players to win Olympic Gold in both the singles and doubles categories. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Williams became only the third player to win Olympic gold medals in both singles and doubles at one Olympic Games, after Helen Wills Moody at the 1924 Summer Olympics and Venus at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Williams is the only player, male or female, to accomplish a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles. 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.
Williams was the world's highest paid woman athlete in 2016, earning almost $29 million. 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 four times (2003, 2010, 2016, 2018), and in December 2015 was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. In 2021, she was ranked 28th on Forbes' World's Highest-Paid Athletes list. She is currently the highest-earning woman athlete of all time.
Williams was born on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan to Oracene Price and Richard Williams. She is the youngest of Price's five daughters: half-sisters Yetunde, Lyndrea, and Isha Price, and full older sister Venus. She also has at least seven paternal half-siblings. When the children were young, the family moved to Compton, California, where she started playing tennis at age four. Her father home-schooled her and her sister, Venus. While he and subsequently her mother have been their official coaches, her other mentors have included Richard Williams, a Compton man who shared her father's name and subsequently founded The Venus and Serena Williams Tennis/Tutorial Academy.
When Williams was nine, she and her family moved from Compton to West Palm Beach, Florida so she could attend the tennis academy of Rick Macci, who provided her with additional coaching. Macci did not always agree with Williams's father, but respected that "he treated his daughters like kids, allowed them to be little girls". Richard stopped sending his daughters to national junior tennis tournaments when Williams was 10, as he wanted them to "go slowly" and focus on school work. Experiences of racism also influenced this decision, as he had heard white parents talk about the Williams sisters in a derogatory manner during tournaments. At that time, Williams had a 46–3 record on the United States Tennis Association junior tour and was ranked number one among under-10 players in Florida. In 1995, when Williams was in the ninth grade, her father pulled his daughters out of Macci's academy and took over all coaching at their home. When asked in 2000 whether it would have been more beneficial for them to have followed the normal path of playing regularly on the junior circuit, Williams responded, "Everyone does different things. I think for Venus and I, we just attempted a different road, and it worked for us."