Women who paved the way: Serena Williams


Courtesy of Yann_Caradec on Creative Commons

Serena Williams entered her first tennis tournament before the age of five.

Emily Dvareckas, Photo Editor

In light of Women’s History Month, The Hawks’ Herald is featuring important women from throughout history. The third week of March highlights women who have paved the way in sports.

Serena Williams was born as the youngest of five children on Sept. 26, 1981. During childhood, Williams’ father taught her and her sister Venus how to play tennis. Serena was on the tennis court by the age of three and entered into her first tournament when she was four and a half years old.

The family moved from Louisiana to Compton, California, where the girls were forced to practice on courts riddled with potholes and other obstacles in a city filled with gang activity. Their father wanted his daughters to succeed in life and tennis and he thought their new life obstacles would make them tougher.

When Serena was 10 years old, she had a record of 46-3 on the junior United States Tennis Association Tour and ranked as number one in the 10 and under division of the tour.

The Williams family moved to Florida in 1991 in order for Serena and Venus to attend a tennis academy. In 1993, the girls withdrew from school in order to focus on tennis. After a while, Serena enrolled back into school and attended Driftwood Academy until she graduated in 1999. In 1995 at the age of 14, Williams went pro but was unable to play in the United States due to the Women’s Tennis Association banning young athletes from entering tournaments.

Her first tournament as a pro occurred in Quebec, Canada, where she was quickly eliminated. She took the year off from tournaments in order to improve her game. In 1997, Williams entered the Women’s Tennis Association and began participating in tournaments. She completed the 1997 season ranked 99 after defying all expectations in her first season.

In 1998, Williams continued to beat players ranked above her and ended up playing against her sister Venus won the match. In the same year, Serena won two Grand Slam mixed doubles, one at Wimbledon and one at the U.S. Open.

By the end of 1998, Williams had won $2 million in prize money. In 1999, she won her first singles tournament at the Paris Indoor Tournament. On that same day, Venus won a tournament in Oklahoma. During the same year, Serena beat three of the top four players in the world and went on to win the singles title in the U.S. Open. She also beat Venus in the Grand Slam Cup.

The sisters then played doubles and won the Grand Slam Doubles at both the French Open and the U.S. Open. Serena finished the 1999 season as the fourth-ranked women’s player in the world. During the next couple of years, Williams was forced to drop out of several tournaments due to injuries but came back in 2002 to beat the top three ranking players at the NASDAQ-100 Open, winning the singles title.

She became the second woman in history to beat the top three players in a single tournament. Serena and Venus faced each other three times that year and Serena won each match. After her 2002 season, Williams became one of seven women in tennis history to win three consecutive Grand Slam titles in one year.

She continued to win during her 2003 season and held onto the title of number one ranked women’s tennis player for a year even as she dealt with injuries and the murder of her sister, Yetunde Price. In 2004, her injuries persisted and she had to drop out of several tournaments. However, she also began acting and had multiple guest roles on popular television shows.

In 2008, Serena and Venus won the Olympic Gold medal for women’s doubles in Beijing. In 2009, the sisters bought shares in the Miami Dolphins and became the first Black women to own part of an NFL team.

In 2012, Serena won her fourth Olympic Gold medal with a win by Serena and Venus over the Czech team in a doubles match. In 2015, Williams beat her sister once again at Wimbledon and then defeated Garbine Muguruza to win the singles Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, thus becoming the oldest Grand Slam Champion for singles.

In 2016, Serena won the singles title at Wimbledon and hours later, won the doubles alongside Venus, earning their sixth Wimbledon win together. In 2017, Serena won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, surpassing all records and becoming the number one ranking player.

At the Australian Open, Serena Williams was two months pregnant. She gave birth in September and returned to the court in December of 2017. She returned to tournaments in 2018. Since then, she has suffered multiple losses but also earned many wins.

Serena Williams’ career began at the age of four and a half and from there, she shot her way to the top. She remains one of the best players in the history of women’s tennis.