She is a Woman of the Year because: “When most people would falter, she is able to raise her game a level, and that’s what you look for in champions. I feel confident she will win more major singles titles than my 12. And that makes me very proud.” — Billie Jean King, tennis champ and 2006 Woman of the Year
Serena Williams: The Athlete
by: Shaun Dreisbach
Serena Williams feels the pull of competition the way the rest of us feel gravity. It’s why she entered her first tennis tournament at age eight (against her dad’s wishes). It’s why she’s earned 11 Grand Slam titles, two Olympic gold medals and more prize money than any female athlete in the history of sports. “I use the trophies as punch bowls,” she says, laughing. But along the way, she’s had to overcome setbacks and personal tragedies, including the 2003 murder of her beloved sister Yetunde and injuries that relegated her to 140th place during the 2006 season.
After tooth-and-nailing her way up the rankings again, this year she capped her comeback by winning Wimbledon against her sister Venus. (“I love you, Venus,” she later tweeted. “You made me work hard today.”) Of course, Serena’s competitiveness also fueled her outburst at this year’s U.S. Open, for which she soon made amends. “I want to sincerely apologize…. I handled myself inappropriately,” she said, then calmly won the doubles title with Venus.
Other recent victories: She came out with an apparel line on HSN and an autobiography, On the Line. Even more important, in 2008 her Serena Williams Foundation opened a secondary school in rural Kenya, with plans for more. “My goal is not to be the best athlete in the world,” she says. “My goal is to help others…. When I cut the ribbon at that school, I felt so genuinely happy. I’ve never felt that way winning Wimbledon or any other tournament. And I have won them all!”