Also Credited As:Serena Jameka Williams
|September 26, 1981|
LATEST NEWS AND BLOGS
Serena Jameka Williams was born on Sept. 26, 1981 in Saginaw, MI to Richard Williams and Oracene Price. She was the youngest of Price's five daughters, which included older sister and fellow future tennis star Venus, as well as three half-sisters. Williams began playing tennis at the age of four after her family moved to Compton, CA. Both she and her sister Venus were home-schooled and coached by their parents at public courts in Compton. A few years later, the family moved once again to West Palm Beach, FL, where the Williams sisters trained with coach Rick Macci at his tennis academy. She started competing in junior level competitions early on, but her parents also put a strong emphasis on her studies. When she was in the ninth grade, Williams' father pulled her and Venus out of Macci's tennis school and decided to coach them himself. He was present at every tournament his daughters played, including the Grand Slam matches they dominated at the height of their careers.
At age 13, Williams made her professional debut at the 1995 Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada; she lost in the qualifying round and reportedly earned $240 in prize money. In two years time, Williams was already playing against Top 10 ranked players such as Monica Seles and Mary Pierce. She made her Grand Slam debut in 1998 at the Australian Open, where she faced Venus in the second round. It was the sisters' first professional match, which also signaled the beginning of their dominance in the sport. Venus eventually won their first match as rivals, but the duo faced off several times (often in the finals) throughout their careers. The sisters also teamed up for doubles tournaments and won, including the prestigious and historic Wimbledon. Williams won her first professional singles title at the 1999 Open Gaz de France tournament in Paris. That same year, she finally cracked the world's Top 10 with a No. 9 ranking and won her first Grand Slam trophy at the U.S. Open. Williams' speed, agility, and powerful forehand earned her a reputation as one of tennis' most aggressive and commanding players. In 2000, Williams nabbed the gold medal at the Olympic games held in Sydney, Australia.
The year 2002 - also referred to as the "Serena Slam" - marked a career high for Williams. She beat Venus back-to-back at the French Open and Wimbledon, and dethroned her for the No. 1 ranking in the world. Williams made history as the second African-American woman to hold the top rank in the world. She then capped it off with her third Grand Slam title that year, once again beating Venus at the U.S. Open. On the heels of those wins, the Associated Press named her 2002's "Female Athlete of the Year." The Williams sisters' rivalry continued throughout the decade, with several face-offs in Grand Slam finals and alternating as the No. 1 and 2 seeded players in the world. They were also the only two women during the "open era" (when Grand Slam tournaments began allowing professional players to compete with amateurs) of tennis to play each in four consecutive Grand Slam finals.
Despite her dominance on the court, Williams was often struck with physical injuries, from a broken thumb to major foot and knee injuries - all of which slowed her down or forced her to withdraw from competitions. Like her male counterpart, tennis legend John McEnroe, Williams was also considered one of the most outspoken players in her sport. At the 2009 U.S. Open against Kim Clijsters, Williams slammed her racquet on the court after losing the first set, and later yelled profanities and threats towards the lineswoman for penalizing her for a supposed "foot fault" during a serve. Williams' unsportsmanlike behavior cost her the match and she was placed on a two-year probation. She generated controversy again two years later during the 2011 U.S. Open after shouting "Come on!" at her opponent Samantha Stosur. She was fined $2,000 but was not barred from competing the following year.
Williams also found success with her other ventures outside professional tennis, where she was considered one of the highest paid athletes. Her fashion-forward style, marked by bright-colored and body-hugging outfits during matches, led to collaborations with popular brands such as Nike and Puma. She launched her own label called Aneres (her name spelled backwards) in 2004, and released a handbag and jewelry line for the Home Shopping Network called Signature Statement in 2009. That same year, she became part owner of professional football team the Miami Dolphins alongside her sister Venus and fellow big names including Jimmy Buffett, Gloria Estefan, Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. Her powerful plays and confident attitude on the tennis courts turned Williams into a celebrity, and Hollywood embraced her star status. She guest starred with Venus and other tennis pros in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), and appeared on several TV shows including MTV's "Punk'd" (2003-07) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ).
By Candy Cuenco