Serena Williams: 33 reasons to celebrate a birthday
Just 33 of the reasons to celebrate Serena Williams' 33rd birthday
Serena Williams: where does one begin in summing up the career of one of the most successful athletes in the world, one of the most dominant tennis players ever to wield a racket, one of the greatest female tennis players of all time?
Saturday 26 September 1981 is where it started—precisely 33 years ago today.
October 1997 first showed the 16-year-old’s potential when she reached her first WTA semi-final. Few, though, would predict that the young Serena would so soon steal the thunder of her formidable elder sister, Venus, who had just reached the final of the US Open at the age of 17.
For two years later, Serena would go on to win the US Open before Venus. It was 1999, the year Serena turned 18, and the year that, arguably, her career as the pre-eminent player of her era really began.
She burst onto the scene with her first five titles, and not just any titles. There were Premiers—the Paris Indoors and Indian Wells, plus the final in Miami. And there was the first of what would become 18 Grand Slam singles titles, the US Open, followed by the Grand Slam Cup.
Almost 11 years later, she won her 13th Major at Wimbledon, but that would suddenly look like her last Major, too. Within days, she was sidelined with a serious foot injury, within months she was hit by a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and the chances of a return to the heights of tennis looked bleak.
2011, though, saw her begin a ‘second’, and possibly even more outstanding, career. She immediately won 23 out of 26 matches—including two titles and a final finish at the US Open—and hurtled through the first five months of 2012 with titles in Charleston and Madrid and a semi finish in Rome.
After a shock first-round exit at Roland Garros—the only time in 15 years of Grand Slam competition that she had fallen at the first hurdle—she worked harder still, and put together an 18-month run of almost unparalleled success—109 wins for just five losses.
She ended 2012 with the titles at Wimbledon, Stanford, the US Open and the WTA Championships plus, for good measure, Olympic gold. She opened 2013 with the Brisbane title, the final of Doha, followed by an unbroken run through Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome and—the appropriate culmination of a year’s endeavour—the French Open title, 11 years after winning her first.
Her fourth-round loss at Wimbledon last year brought to an end a lifetime-best 34-match streak, but that served merely to spur her on: a first International title in Bastad and a near clean sweep in the US Open Series, winning Toronto, reaching the final in Cincinnati and then defending her US crown.
She finished 2013 with the prestigious Beijing Premier, a fourth WTA Championships and as year-end No1 for the third time. Fourteen years after winning her first title, Williams had put together her most successful season, with more titles—11—and more match-wins—78 for just four losses—than ever before.
In reclaiming the top spot, she had also become the oldest woman to do so in the 40 years of computer rankings.
And while her male counterpart, Roger Federer—who turned 33 just weeks before Williams—is still in pursuit of his 18th Grand Slam, she has notched up that particular milestone too, back at the site of her first 15 years ago. Is the competition getting any closer? Well, she didn’t drop more than three games in any set throughout the tournament.
So in tribute to the remarkable Serena, here are 33 achievements to savour—one for each birthday.
• Has won most Australian Open titles, five, in the Open Era
• Has won most matches at the Australian Open (61)
• Has won most US Open titles, six, in the Open Era (tied with Chris Evert)
• Has won most hard-court Major titles: 11 [5 Australian and 6 US]
• Has the longest span between first (1999) and last (2014) US Open titles: 15 years
• One of only three to win of all four Grand Slam singles titles in two decades (Margaret Court and Steffi Graf)
• Only player, male or female, to accomplish a Career Golden Slam in singles and doubles
• With Venus, became first pair in Open Era to complete the Career Doubles Golden Slam twice (2001, 2003 Australian Open; 1999, 2010 Roland Garros; 2000, 2002 Wimbledon; 1999, 2009 US Open; 2000, 2008 Olympic gold)
• In 2012 Wimbledon semi-final against Victoria Azarenka, hit a record 24 aces in a match
WTA, rankings, Olympics and more
• In 2001, first player to win the WTA Championships on her debut
• In 2002, Serena and Venus were first siblings to hold top two singles rankings after Serena beat her sister in Roland Garros final. [She would beat her again in the Wimbledon and US Open finals.]
• By reaching the final of the 2003 Australian Open, she and sister Venus became first players to compete in four consecutive Slam finals [and would do so again at Wimbledon, Serena winning all of them]
• In 2012 Olympics, Serena and Venus were the first team to win a record three doubles golds
• With singles and doubles gold in the 2012 Olympics, Serena became most decorated tennis player in the Olympics with a record four gold medals (shared with Venus)
• Oldest player to reach No1 ranking
• Oldest player to hold No1 ranking (current)
• Oldest to win US Open title in Open era, in 2013 and again in 2014
• Oldest winner of the WTA Championships, 2013
• Winner of most Miami titles, men or women, after winning seventh in nine finals in 2014
• First woman to win $6 million in prize money in a single year: 2009
• First woman to win $12 million in a single year: 2013
• First woman to top $50 million in career prize money: in 2013
• First woman to top $60 million in career prize money: in 2014
• Won biggest ever prize in tennis at 2014 US Open: $3 million champion’s cheque plus $1million for winning the US Open Series
• Record number of seasons (15) earning $1 million or more
• Highest earning women’s athlete in prize money in all of sports
• WTA Player of the Year Award, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013
• ITF Singles World Champion, 2002, 2009, 2012, 2013
• WTA Doubles Team of the Year (with Venus Williams), twice
• WTA Doubles Team Fans Favourite (with Venus Williams), three times
• BET Female Athlete of Year Award, nine times
• Laureus Sports Awards:
– World Sportswoman, 2003, 2010
– Comeback of year, 2007
• One of only two women to win Hopman Cup twice (with James Blake 2003, with Mardy Fish 2008