Serena Williams for Sports Illustrated: Serena Williams Named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 ‘Sportsperson Of The Year’
Tennis icon Serena Williams has been making waves, well typhoons to be exact, in the tennis arena for two decades and the hysteria is certainly not all hype. After a surreal year atop the world of Women’s tennis, hanging on to the number one spot each and every week, Williams has aptly been crowned Sports Illustrated’s 2015 “Sportsperson of the Year.”Amidst a career hurdled with racial barriers, public controversy, and sexism, Serena teaches us all a lesson on what it truly means to be a champion.
The William’s family has played a pivotal role in the world of American Sports Culture reaching far beyond the game of tennis. Ever since bright-eyed, and confident sisters Venus and Serena Williams began making strides in the ranks of Professional Women’s Tennis as young teenagers, both the game and the culture that surrounded it has been catapulted into a new era. For most of Serena’s life, she had to fight for just that. Being Black, a Woman, and coming from a working class family in one of America’s most notorious neighborhoods: Compton, CA . However, Serena wasn’t content with being just another black girl from Compton and she would use her skill and passion to show us all how great she truly was.
While many see Williams as aggressive and overconfident, reminding themselves of past occurrences involving infamous outbursts such as when, on match point in the U.S. Open Semi-Finals, she audaciously threatened a line judge over a foot-fault call, resulting in a record $82,500 fine or perhaps our minds travel back to an incident shortly thereafter in the 2011 U.S. Open final, when Williams confronted an official remarking (Are you the one who screwed me over last time here? Don’t look at me. If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way), William’s went on to lose that match. However, we know a very different Serena Williams, one that exists beyond the caricature that media has drawn, an individual that not only challenges calls on the court, but within herself and prompts us all to look at the bigger picture.
Everyone always asked, “What was your greatest moment in tennis?” and I always said, “it hasn’t happened,” Serena says. “But I think it has happened now, and that was going back to Indian Wells and playing. It released a lot of feelings that I didn’t even know I had. I was really surprised at how emotional I got and how relieved I felt after everything was said and done.” When considering the record breaking number of major titles and accomplishments in Serena’s life, you may be a little puzzled as to why the somewhat obscure Indian Wells Tournament in California holds so much weight in the athlete’s life.
To gain some perspective, let’s travel back to 13 years prior as an already successful pair of sisters, Venus and Serena Williams entered the Semi-finals of Indian Wells amidst a reported atmosphere of booes. A 19 year old Serena on the court facing Belgian crowd favorite, Kim Clijsters and an injured Venus Williams above in the stadium with father and coach, Richard Williams. The hostile behavior continued as the crowd cheered every time Williams would commit a double fault or error and booed whenever she would hit a piercing winner or rack up a point. Serena went on to win that match to the dismay of the crowd, but the victory for Serena and her family was bittersweet. With trophy in hand and her heart in the others, a teary eyed Serena rode the two hours home to Los Angeles vowing to never return to Indian Wells.
Serena kept her promise and through a sometimes tumultuous career laced with set backs and historic rises, she did not return to Indian Wells. That all changed in 2012 after winning the Australian Open, where Williams shockingly announced that she would be returning to the one tournament that she had not yet truly conquered, Indian Wells.
The Indian Wells that Serena saw this time around was a complete 180 from what she had experienced as an eager 19 year old over a decade prior. Williams anxiously walked out to a standing ovation that carried on well into warm ups. The next moments were likely an emotional blur for Williams as the now 30 year old world number one sat shell shocked before the start of the match, and for the second time Serena cried at Indian Wells, this time the tears had a different meaning, forgiveness.
“I was brought up to forgive people,” Serena says, “and I felt that I wasn’t doing what I was taught,” Williams said regarding her return to Indian Wells. William’s did indeed win that match and in cinematic fashion , the crowd rose gallantly sending an echo of applause and cheers traveling back decades, coursing across the jagged mountains of disdain and pain caused by a crowd that likely looked very similar to the one before her at that moment.
“This year was spectacular,” Serena Williams said to SI. “For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village — not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honored.” This achievement is spectacular for quite a few reasons. Most notably, Williams’s selection marks the first time a woman has been chosen in more than than three decades, and William’s herself, is only the third woman chosen in the entire history of the award. A familiar name and advocate of Williams, tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King along with track star Mary Decker are the other two women who have been granted the title.
“I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is I dreamed about tennis last night. The bad news is everybody better watch out,” shared Williams. Call it arrogance if you may, but we know better and so does William’s. Serena isn’t the type of person who walks around with a chip on her shoulder, she’s a champion so just when you think she’s down or you think you truly understand what’s next.. just wait. Well, we’ll be waiting Serena and we’re sure you have a lot more history to make.