Serena Williams: All you need to know after record-breaking win


The win was routine but the milestone anything but.

With a 6-2 6-3 victory over Yaroslava Shvedov at the US Open, Serena Williams set a new Grand Slam record of 308 victories, to pass Roger Federer in the all-time list of matches won at the tennis majors.

The dominant figure in the women’s game, there is still likely to be much more to come from Williams. Here is all you need to know.

  1. Athlete, not female athlete

Few athletes in any field have matched Williams for longevity and success.

She made her debut aged just 16 in the 1998 Australian Open. She is currently ranked number one in the WTA women’s rankings – at 34 the oldest woman to be so.

In between her numbers are dizzying: 22 Grand Slam singles titles, four Olympic gold medals, $80m (£60m) in prize money, a 770-128 win record on the tour.

Asked if she considers herself one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Williams responded: “I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.'”

  1. Raised in Compton

Williams swung her first racket aged three, putting in the vital hours of practice on tennis courts in Compton, the tough Californian city notorious for gang culture.

Moving there was a deliberate ploy by father Richard, who had predicted greatness for his children and wanted them to “see first hand how their lives might turn out if they did not work hard and get an education”.

A former Compton council woman, Patricia Moore, said gang members offered Serena and sister Venus protection. She told CNN “they would surround the court, they wanted the girls to do well”.

  1. She might have been a vet

In 1992, Trans World Sport profiled Serena and Venus, then aged 11 and 12, while they were training at a tennis academy and showing huge potential.

Both were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and, unsurprisingly, both chose tennis player. And if not? Serena said she might be a veterinarian, while Venus chose architecture.

And proving a precocious gift for a sporting soundbite, when asked which tennis player she wanted to be like, she said: “Well, I would like other people to be like me.”

  1. Playing Venus is hard

During her maiden Grand Slam appearance, Serena met and was defeated by sister Venus.

On the rivalry, that year she told the New York Times, ”I don’t have time to come along slowly; we both want to be No. 1, and I think it depends on whichever of us is more serious about it.”

Since then they have met on numerous occasions and Serena has lived up to her father’s prediction she would be the better player, in one streak defeating Venus in four consecutive Grand Slam finals to seal her first “Serena Slam”.

But it is something she clearly finds uncomfortable. “I don’t look at Venus on the court. I can’t,” she told Vogue. “If I am winning, I might feel sorry for her.”

  1. Equal pay advocate

The debate on whether female tennis players should earn the same prize money as men resurfaced earlier this year but Williams was unambiguous in her views.

“I don’t deserve to be paid less because of my sex,” she said at Wimbledon.

Speaking at the US Open, she added, “Tennis has made huge, huge improvements. We just have to keep that… going for all other female sports, as well.”

  1. Jehovah’s Witness

Williams, like the rest of her sisters, was raised in the faith after her mother converted in the 1980s.

She often thanks Jehovah God after matches and has reportedly gone door to door evangelising, as practitioners of the religions are required to do.

After an expletive-riddled outburst during the 2009 US Open, she told an interviewer, “What bothered me most was that I was representing my religion.”

  1. Maya Angelou fan

“You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies…”

With its themes of the resilience of black people, and of triumph over adversity it is perhaps no surprise Williams’s favourite poem is Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.

She recited it for the BBC (UK only – sorry) ahead of her appearance in the Wimbledon final this year.

  1. NFL stakeholder

In 2009, Serena and Venus bought a small stake in American Football side the Miami Dolphins to become minority owners.

By doing so, the sisters became the first female African-Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL franchise.

  1. She loves how she looks

Despite her success, Williams has been subject to a long list of attacks on how she looks, often with an added dose of racism and sexism.

But in an interview with Good Morning America in 2015, she said: “I’ve been like this my whole life, and I embrace me and I love how I look.

“I love that I am a full woman, and I’m strong and I’m powerful and I’m beautiful at the same time. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

She has taken command of her own image, appearing in a not “nude but a body study” in the Pirelli calendar and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.



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