The tennis champ is being recognized for her many accomplishments on and off the court.

By Arielle Tschinkel
December 30, 2019

As the decade comes to a close, the Associated Press (AP) has named its Female Athlete of the Decade, and the choice will probably surprise few sports fans. Serena Williams was chosen by members of the AP, including sports editors and beat writers, who noted how Williams "dominated the decade, on the court and in conversation."

Williams began her professional tennis career back in 1995, but the past 10 years have been packed with some of her biggest accomplishments both on and off the court.

First, there are her career-defining achievements: Williams has earned 12 Grand Slam singles titles in the past decade alone (for reference, German tennis player Angelique Kerber comes in directly behind her with three), with 23 Grand Slam singles titles in total. At 38 years old, she also happens to be the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles trophy, according to CBS News. (Remember when Williams called her body a "weapon and machine"?)

Williams also holds an overall record of 377-45, meaning she won almost 90 percent of the matches she competed in from 2010 to 2019. Specifically, she won 37 titles, reaching the finals at just over half of the tournaments she entered this decade, according to the AP.

"When the history books are written, it could be that the great Serena Williams is the greatest athlete of all time," Stacey Allaster, chief executive for professional tennis at the U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, told the AP. "I like to call it the 'Serena Superpowers'—that champion's mindset. Irrespective of the adversity and the odds that are facing her, she always believes in herself."

Speaking about the athlete's life and legacy off the tennis court, Allaster added that Williams "has endured it all" over the past decade: "Whether it was health issues; coming back; having a child; almost dying from that—she is still in championship form. Her records speak for themselves." (Related: Serena Williams Is 'Fighting for Women's Rights' as Stars Show Support After U.S. Open Loss)

But Williams didn't just endure challenges throughout her career; she used them to call attention to several important issues that affect people around the world.

For instance, after giving birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia, Williams opened up to Vogue about the life-threatening postpartum health complications she experienced. She shared that she'd had an emergency C-section, as well as blood clots in her lungs due to a pulmonary embolism, which caused intense coughing and a rupture of her C-section wound. Her doctors then found a large hematoma (a swelling of clotted blood) in her abdomen that had been caused by hemorrhaging at the site of her C-section wound, requiring multiple surgeries. (Related: Serena Williams Opens Up About Her New-Mom Emotions and Self Doubt)

Williams then wrote an op-ed for CNN to raise awareness of the racial disparities that exist in pregnancy-related mortality. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes," the athlete wrote, adding that the issue affects women globally. (Related: Serena Williams Believes That Her Postpartum Health Complications Made Her Stronger)

Throughout the past decade, Williams also hasn't hesitated to call out injustice within her own sport (including racist and sexist comments). After taking more than a year away from tennis to spend time with her family, Williams hit the 2018 French Open in a fierce Wakanda-inspired catsuit. The outfit not only served as a major fashion statement, but it also helped with the blood clots she continued to face after her childbirth complications. (Related: Serena Williams Released a Topless Music Video for Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

Despite the outfit's functional purposes, though, French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli said the suit would "no longer be accepted" under new dress code regulations. A few days later, Williams showed up to the U.S. Open wearing a tulle tutu over a bodysuit, a move that many felt was a silent clap-back to the catsuit ban. (Don't forget about the empowering fashion statement Williams made at the 2019 French Open, too.)

Williams may be the AP's choice for Female Athlete of the Decade, but the tennis champ said it best in 2016 when she told a reporter: "I prefer the word 'one of the greatest athletes of all time.'"


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