12 May
2009
Posted in: People, Sports
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History of Serena Williams


Serena Williams is a female American tennis player, the sister of Venus Williams, and also a top ranked player who has been ranked number one in the world several times, and holds the record for holding all four grand slam titles consecutively. Serena Williams has represented the US at the Olympic Games, and is one of the world’s highest earning sport celebrities. Ms Williams is a long time philanthropist, having established a school in Kenya, and offering her support to breast cancer clinics. She is considered a positive role model in the world of sport.

Serena Williams playing tennis in pink dress

Serena Jameka Williams was born in Saginaw Michigan on the 26th September 1981, to Richard and Brandy Williams. She is the youngest of five girls and while still an infant moved with her family to Compton, a suburb of Los Angeles in California. The family never felt safe living in Compton and Serena’s father was determined his two youngest daughters would have the chance for a better life so started teaching them tennis at a very young age in the public tennis courts around Compton.

Serena started playing tennis at the age of four, her parents home schooled Serena and coached her in tennis, the family having bought numerous books and videos on coaching and playing tennis. At the age of four and a half Serena competed in her first competition, by all accounts winning 46 from 49 junior United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments and being ranked number one in the under ten age group nationally in 1990. In 1991 Serena’s parents withdrew her and Venus from competitive tennis to concentrate on their school studies and give the sisters a grounding outside of competitive tennis.

Around the same time Richard Williams asked Rick Macci, a well known tennis coach from Florida to travel to California to see his daughters playing. Macci had previously coached Mary Pierce and Jennifer Capriati, and immediately suggested the family move to Florida so Serena and Venus could attend his tennis academy. By this time Serena and Venus had earned enough in endorsements to allow the family to buy a home in Palm Beach Garden close to Macci’s academy.

From 1991 till 1995 Serena Williams undertook intensive training with Macci, developing her style of play and learning about game strategy. In 1995 the Williams family parted ways from Rick Macci with Richard Williams taking on responsibility for the continuing coaching of both Serena, and her sister Venus. In the same year Serena turned pro and played her first professional game at the age of 14 in the Bell Challenge, Quebec City.

Turning pro at 14, two years younger than the WTA allowed for professional players meant that Serena was only able to play in non-WTA events, yet despite lack of contact with other WTA players Serena became known once again for being a formidable player. In 1997, shortly after her 16th birthday, Serena joined the WTA pro tour. Her first major wins came at the Ameritech Cup in Chicago where Serena beat seventh ranked Mary Pierce in the second round, followed by fourth ranked Monica Seles in the quarterfinals, and finally falling to Lyndsey Davenport in the semis.

Serena Williams playing tennis in black dress1998 was a pivotal year for Serena Williams who started the year ranked 99th in women’s tennis yet finished the year in the top 20 after bruising encounters with the top female players that saw her win doubles and mixed doubles tournaments, winning Wimbledon and the US Open mixed doubles with her playing partner Max Mirnyi, and the women’s doubles at the Grand Slam with sister Venus.

Serena played her first professional match against Venus, losing to her during the second round of the Australian Open, a match both described as challenging since Venus had always looked out for her sister, whilst Serena had always looked up to Venus. Both sisters have regularly played each other in tournaments, and observers have commented they seem to play each other without their usual zeal and enthusiasm leading to accusations outside the sport and amongst some players that Richard Williams decides in advance which of the sisters will win the match.

Serena’s first professional win in the WTA was at the 1999 Paris Indoor tournament against Amélie Mauresmo, but later that year she went on to win the 1999 US Open, beating three of the top four ranked WTA players, Monica Seles, Lyndsay Davenport, and Martina Hingis, and also becoming the first African-American to win a major Grand Slam title since Althea Gibson, another African-American player who won Wimbledon and the US Championship in 1958, and a moment Serena has described as a career highlight despite winning several majors since.

In WTA rankings Serena finished 1999 ranked 4th, but dropped to 6th in 2000, and it wasn’t until the Australian Open in 2002 that Serena Williams finally won the coveted 1st ranking, beating her sister Venus at the Australian Open who had been the previous number one, and the first time in WTA history that a player had dethroned her own sister for the rank. By 2003 Serena lost her number one to Kim Clijsters after 57 weeks at number one, a tough year for the Williams sisters after a shooting in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton that killed their older sister Yetunde.

Between 2004 and 2007 Serena Williams suffered a recurring left knee injury that kept her from playing at top form and was the cause of many frustrating losses including a drop in rank out of the top ten. The Australian Open was her only major win in 2005, whilst 2006 saw Serena withdraw from many tournaments or only enter as a wildcard entrant. Despite problems with her knee Serena did manage to reach the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters and the JP Morgan Chase Open, but missing out on a chance in the US Open being beaten in the fourth round.

Returning to WTA events in 2007 after taking a short break for recuperation Serena stunned the tennis world with a spectacular win in the Australian Open against Maria Sharapova before going onto win the Sony Ericsson Open against Justine Henin. 2008 saw Serena continue to do well, winning the Hopman Cup, the Bangalore Open, the Family Circle Cup, and the US Open, and returning her to number one ranking in the WTA, a position she lost by the end of the year but holding onto the number two rank.

Serena Williams in a beautiful brown dress

2009 started positively for Serena, winning the Australia Open for the fourth time, but a thigh injury forced her to withdraw from defending her crown at the Family Circle Cup, and also saw her lose the Sony Ericsson final to Victoria Azarenka, also seeing a loss in the Andalucía Tennis Experience in the first round. Despite injury, Serena Williams has consistently demonstrated a desire to get back on court, earning her awards for Most Favourite Female Sports Star (2008), WTA Player of the year (2002, 2008), Avon Foundation Celebrity Role Model Award (2003), and the Family Circle Player Who Makes a Difference Award (2004).




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