Who is Serena Williams? Biography, Parents, Career, Records, Honours, Books, Husband, Children

Serena Williams is a professional tennis player from the United States who has held the top spot in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings multiple times over her successful career. Williams began serious tennis lessons when she was three years old.

She won her maiden major title in 1999 and went on to win the career Grand Slam in 2003. Along with her singles achievements, Serena has won a few of doubles tournaments with her sister Venus. In 2017, she overcame her older sister in the Australian Open to win her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

Early Life and Family

Serena Jameka Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, on September 26, 1981, to Richard and Oracene Williams. Serena, the youngest of Richard’s five children, and her sister Venus would go on to become world-class tennis players.

Serena’s father, a lowly sharecropper from Louisiana who was determined to see his two youngest daughters succeed, utilized tennis books and DVDs to teach Serena and Venus how to play the game. Serena overcame the rigors of daily two-hour practices from her father at the age of three, training on a court not far from the family’s new Compton, California, home.

It was no coincidence that the family had migrated to Compton. With its high gang activity rate, Richard wanted to expose his girls to the ugliness of life “if they did not work hard and get an education.” Serena and Venus learned the game of tennis and the prerequisites for perseverance in this setting, on courts filled with potholes and occasionally missing nets.

Serena was 46-3 on the junior USTA tour by 1991, and she was ranked #1 in the 10-and-under group. He relocated his family once more, this time to Florida, after realizing his daughters needed better education to become great professionals. There, Richard relinquished part of his coaching duties, but not the administration of Serena and Venus’s careers. He reduced his kids’ junior tournament schedule out of concern that they might burn out too quickly.

The Williams Sisters

Serena Williams (R) and Venus Williams confer as they play against Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s doubles first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York, on September 1, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

Serena and her older sister Venus were trained for a tennis career by their father from the age of three. Venus and Serena transformed the face of tennis with their own style and performance. Their raw force and athletic talent stunned opponents, and their sense of flair and presence elevated them to the status of court celebrities. The sisters lived together for more than a decade in a private Palm Beach Gardens enclave in Florida, but they split up after Serena purchased a property in nearby Jupiter in December 2013.

Serena beat over her sister Venus in the race to the family’s maiden Grand Slam championship in 1999, winning the US Open. It set the tone for both Williams sisters to go on a tear of high-powered, high-profile victories.

Serena and Venus won their second Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles in 2008 in Beijing. The next year, Serena and Venus bought stock in the Miami Dolphins, becoming the first African American women to hold a stake in an NFL team.

Serena won her fourth Olympic gold medal in 2012, partnering up with sister Venus to overcome Czech Republic players Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in women’s doubles.

In order to move past the fourth round of Wimbledon in the summer of 2015, Williams had to overcome her big sister Venus. A few days later, she beat Garbine Muguruza in the final to complete her second career “Serena Slam” and become the Open era’s oldest Grand Slam singles champion.

Williams faced Venus again in a tight quarterfinal game at the 2015 US Open, this time pulling away in the deciding third set. The result left her two wins short of the calendar year Grand Slam, which has only been completed by three women in the sport’s history. However, this was not to be. Unseeded Roberta Vinci, ranked No. 43 in the world, ended Williams’ hopes in the semifinals with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Serena and Venus won the doubles championship at Wimbledon just hours after Serena won the singles title. It was their sixth Wimbledon title together.

The Williams sisters suffered a surprising setback at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when they were knocked out of the first round of women’s doubles by Czech combo Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova. The Williams sisters had been seeded first, had an Olympic record of 15-0, and had previously won gold three times.

Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam championship in the 2017 Australian Open, defeating her sister Venus 6-4 6-4. With her 23rd victory, she overtook Steffi Graf’s tally and took over as world number one.

Williams credited her sister as a motivation for her success. “I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Venus; she is an amazing person,” she remarked. “There’s no way I’d be 23 without her.” There’s no way I’d be there without her. She is my inspiration and the sole cause for my existence. I’m standing here today because I’m the sole reason the Williams sisters exist.”

’The Serena Slam’

Serena turned professional in 1995. She was at No. 99 in the world rankings two years later, up from No. 304 just a year before. She graduated high school a year later and nearly immediately signed a $12 million shoe deal with Puma.

Serena won the French Open, the US Open, and Wimbledon in 2002, defeating sister Venus in each final. She won her first Australian Open in 2003, becoming one of only six women in Open history to complete a career Grand Slam. The victory also fulfilled her dream to hold all four major titles at the same time, which she called “The Serena Slam.”

Burnout & Comeback

Serena had knee surgery in August 2003, and her half-sister Yetunde Price was murdered in September in Los Angeles, California. Serena appeared exhausted three years later. Serena’s tennis rating dropped to 139 due to injuries and a general lack of drive to stay fit and compete at the same level she once did.

Serena attributed her renewed pride and competitive fire to her Jehovah’s Witness faith, as well as a life-changing trip to West Africa. She won the US Open in 2008. By 2009, Williams had recaptured the top spot in the global rankings, having won both the 2009 Australian Open singles (for the fourth time) and the 2009 Wimbledon singles (for the third time). That year, she also won the doubles matches at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.


Williams made news in September 2009, when she slammed a lineswoman after a foot-fault called towards the conclusion of a semifinal loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters. The profanity-laced tirade featured finger pointing and an apparent threat against Serena’s life, according to the lineswoman.

Williams downplayed what transpired, denying that she had threatened the victim. The act, however, did not go over well with tennis fans or the US Tennis Association, which penalized her $10,000 on the spot. Two months later, she was sentenced to two years on probation and had to pay an additional $82,500 to the Grand Slam committee for the incident, the biggest fine ever imposed on a tennis player.

Senena was back on track by early 2010, winning the Australian Open singles and doubles championships, as well as her fourth Wimbledon singles title.

Injuries and Retirement Speculation

Serena Williams had a series of health scares in 2011 after doctors discovered a blood clot in one of her lungs, which forced her to miss many months of tennis. Following multiple treatments, including one to remove a hematoma, talk about Williams’ retirement from the sport arose.

Serena’s health had healed by September 2011, and she looked like her former dominant self at the US Open before losing in the finals to Samantha Stosur.

Williams struggled mightily at the 2012 French Open, losing in the first round for the first time in a major tournament. But she returned to form in London in July 2012, defeating 23-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets to win her fifth Wimbledon singles title and first major trophy in two years.

Serena overcame Maria Sharapova to win her first gold medal in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

15th and 16th Grand Slam Titles

Serena Williams extended her winning streak to the next Grand Slam event. In September 2012, she defeated opponent Victoria Azarenka to win the US Open singles title. According to USA Today, Williams wasn’t confident she’d win. “I still can’t believe I won.” I was actually working on my runner-up speech because I was thinking, ‘Man, she’s playing so well.'”

Serena has won 15 Grand Slam singles trophies and 13 Grand Slam doubles titles by this point. “I would like to leave a mark,” Serena once stated of her place in the tennis world. “I think I will, obviously, because I’m doing something different in tennis.” But I don’t think I’d ever be able to compete with Martina Navratilova – I don’t think I’d ever be able to play that long — but who knows? “I believe I’ll leave an impression regardless.”

Serena won her second French Open championship, as well as her 16th Grand Slam singles title, in June 2013 with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over defending champion Maria Sharapova. “I’m still a little bit upset about that loss last year,” Serena remarked after the match in an interview with ESPN. “How you recover, however, is everything to me.” “I think I’ve always said that a champion isn’t defined by how much they win, but by how they recover from their setbacks, whether it’s an injury or a loss.”

2013 Wimbledon Loss and U.S. Open Win

Serena then competed at Wimbledon, where she was knocked out in the fourth round (6-2, 1-6, 6-4) by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, the No. 23 seed.

“I don’t think it’s a huge shock,” Serena said of her career-best 34-match winning streak, according to Sports Illustrated. [Lisicki] is a fantastic player. Her position has no bearing on who she should be. She deserves to be ranked higher. She really has a fantastic game for playing effectively on grass.”

Serena Williams had a solid showing at the 2013 US Open. She defeated younger opponent Sloane Stephens in the fourth round before upsetting Azarenka to win the US Open. It was the pair’s second year in a row competing in the finals.

20th Grand Slam

Serena won her third consecutive and sixth overall US Open singles title in 2014, defeating her good friend Caroline Wozniacki. Her winning ways continued into the new year, when she defeated Sharapova to win the 2015 Australian Open. Serena Williams overcame sickness to win the French Open for the third time and won her 20th Grand Slam singles championship, placing her third all-time.

“When I was a little girl, in California, my father and mother wanted me to play tennis,” she told the crowd in French following her victory. “And now I’m here, with 20 Grand Slam titles.”

File photo of US player Serena Williams during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London. GLYN KIRK / AFP

2016 Losses and Wins

Serena began 2016 by reaching the Australian Open final, where she was defeated in three sets by Angelique Kerber. After winning her 70th career WTA title at the Italian Open, she advanced to a rematch with Muguruza in the French Open final, but lost in straight sets this time.

Serena returned to victory on July 9, 2016, defeating Kerber 7-5, 6-3 at Wimbledon to capture her 22nd grand slam championship. Serena Williams’ historic victory ties her with Steffi Graf for the most major titles won during the Open era of professional tennis, which began in 1968.

“I definitely have had some sleepless nights with a lot of stuff, coming so close and feeling it and not being able to get there,” Serena told reporters. “I came into this event with a different mindset. I thought I played well in Melbourne, but Angelique played even better. So I knew going into this one that I needed to be calm, confident, and play the tennis that I’d been playing for well over a decade.”

Serena suffered another shocking defeat at the 2016 US Open, exiting the competition early after losing to Karolina Pliskova in their semifinal encounter. She also lost her No. 1 ranking, which she had maintained for 186 weeks.

23rd Grand Slam, Pregnancy and Birth

Serena went on to win her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open. Later that year, she stated that she was two months pregnant at the time of the game. Her daughter was born in September, and she returned to the courts in late December 2017, aiming to shake off the rust in time to defend her Australian Open title.

However, Williams withdrew from the first Grand Slam tournament in early 2018, citing a lack of preparation following the birth of her baby in September. “I can compete—but I want to do far better than that, and to do so, I will need a little more time,” she explained.

Serena ultimately returned to competition on February 11, joining Venus in a Fed Cup doubles match. Williams appeared to be rounding into form at the French Open, wearing her “Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” before withdrawing with a pectoral injury prior to her much anticipated fourth-round match against Sharapova. After recovering from her setback, she marched through the Wimbledon women’s tournament in July, losing in the final to Angelique Kerber.

Serena learnt at the end of the month, shortly before her match against Johanna Konta at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, that the guy who murdered her half-sister had been paroled three years early. She went on to lose badly, and she later told Time how much the news weighed on her during the match.

The great athlete made headlines again in late August when French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli announced a new clothing policy for the French Open to prevent the return of the infamous catsuit. Williams, who insisted she had no problem with the verdict, went on to wear a custom-designed tutu for the start of the US Open, where she handily cleared her early competition en way to a third-round meeting with elder sister Venus.

2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Runner-up Finishes

Serena Williams was back in peak form at the 2018 U.S. Open, only one year after giving baby. Williams got into a furious argument with the umpire during the final match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka when he found that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was giving her hand signals from the spectators, so the umpire handed her a coaching violation.

Serena denied any infidelity and accused him of sexism and character assassination. “You owe an apology!” she exclaimed. She was subsequently assessed a point penalty for smashing her racket as well as a penalty for verbal abuse. Osaka won the match 6-2, 6-4, and Williams was fined $17,000 for her part in the incident.

Serena Williams advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Australian Open, where she defeated Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Despite being ahead 5-1 in the third set, she succumbed, a surprising collapse for a champion known for her steely nerves.

Serena was outplayed by 20-year-old American Sofia Kenen in the third round of the French Open a few months later. She regained her form and progressed to the Wimbledon final, where she was defeated in straight sets by Romania’s Simona Halep. Serena then breezed through her bracket at the 2019 US Open before losing in the final against 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Despite the fact that she did not win a Grand Slam this year, Williams was awarded the AP Female Athlete of the Decade.

2020 U.S. Open and 2021 Australian Open

Williams called over her trainer while gripping her left ankle during a medical time out following a third-set point during the semifinals on September 10, 2020. She was finally defeated by Victoria Azarenka, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Williams and Osaka met again in the 2021 Australian Open semifinals, with Osaka prevailing 6-3, 6-4.

Grand Slams

Serena Williams has won a record 23 Grand Slam singles titles in her career, which began in 1999 with the U.S. Open. Her most recent triumph came in the 2017 Australian Open, where she broke Steffi Graf’s record for most Open-era victories.

Husband and Children

Williams married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in December 2016. Williams and Ohanian were married on November 16, 2017 at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Serena donned a gorgeous Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown, while Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian West, and Eva Longoria were among the prominent guests in attendance.

Williams alluded about her pregnancy in April 2017 with a Snapchat post revealing her baby tummy with the phrase “20 weeks,” though the post was quickly deleted.

Williams was actually pregnant, and on September 1, 2017, she gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. The tennis legend published an Instagram photo with her newborn and a video of her pregnancy journey on her website and YouTube.

Williams addressed the serious health issues that followed with giving birth to Alexis Olympia in the February 2018 issue of Vogue. Williams developed sudden shortness of breath after having an emergency cesarean section, which led to the detection of blood clots in her lungs. In addition, physicians discovered a big hematoma in her abdomen caused by hemorrhaging at the site of the C-section.

Williams was allowed to return home after a week of recovery after various procedures. She was unable to get out of bed for the next six weeks, leaving her feeling powerless when it came to caring for her infant. Despite the emotional toll, she told Vogue that she was willing to consider having additional children, but she was not in a hurry.

In 2023, Serena gave birth to her second daughter, according to her husband on Tuesday August 22, who added that both were “happy & healthy” after the tennis star’s first child’s harrowing birth left her fighting for her life.

“I’m grateful to report that our house is teaming with love: a happy & healthy newborn girl and happy & healthy mama,” her husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, posted on Instagram alongside a photograph of himself with a beaming Williams hugging both her daughters.

TV, Books & Fashion

Serena Williams developed her brand beyond tennis to include cinema, television, and fashion. She created her own clothing line, Aneres, and was named one of People magazine’s 25 Most Intriguing People in 2002.

She was later named one of the country’s 50 Most Inspiring African Americans by Essence magazine. She’s also been on television, lending her voice to shows like The Simpsons.

The tennis star established the Serena Williams Foundation and built schools in Africa in order to provide educational chances for poor youngsters all over the world.

Queen of the Court, Williams’ autobiography, was published in 2010.

Being Serena, a five-part documentary series about Williams, premiered on HBO in May 2018. Around the same time, the athlete-entrepreneur debuted his own apparel line.

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