FLUSHING, NY – Serena Williams clinched a historic 18th Grand Slam title, tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the second-most Grand Slams in the Open Era. Steffi Graf leads with 22. Even as the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world, Williams’ victory was not a foregone conclusion. Despite winning 11 titles in 2013 including the US Open and French Open, Williams suffered repeated losses in early rounds this year. Most notably, Williams fell to Jana Čepelová in the second round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C.
Her stumbles earlier this year make this historic win even sweeter. Indeed, nearly two decades ago, few could have imagined that Williams’ path from Compton, Calif. would lead her and her sister Venus to redefine the game and inspire countless young women to follow in their footsteps.
Before today, Williams had a place in the history books. Any conversation about women’s tennis greats who indelibly impacted the game would include Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis and Serena Williams. This was true as much for her tennis game as how she’s redefined body-type, tennis apparel, and the competitiveness with which it is “okay” for a woman to play. Recognizing this, TIME magazine named Williams to its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Yet, in tennis, titles reign supreme. And, Serena, whose name means “clear” in latin, has underlined the argument for her acceptance into a hallowed echelon. Williams now holds 33 major titles (18 singles, 13 women’s doubles, two mixed doubles) and four Olympic gold medals.
Left to right: 18-time Grand Slam title holders Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert
When asked if she thinks about catching Navratilova or Graf, Williams, a legend herself, humbly replies,
No. I never have… My goal when I first started playing was just to win Grand Slams. I never thought that I would win this many. I was just a little girl that had a dream and a racket and I would’ve never guessed that I would have had this opportunity. So for me to even be mentioned among the greats is almost—I don’t want to say weird, so I’ll say amazing.
America’s reigning queen of tennis claiming her sixth US Open title, tying Evert for most in the Open Era, is amazing. Williams also became just the second woman, also after Evert, to three-peat at the US Open – Evert strung four straight between 1975 and 1978.
With her win Williams also gained the largest payout in tennis history, men’s or women’s. Williams’ $4 million purse consists of $3 million for winning the title plus a $1 million bonus for winning the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Williams and Rafael Nadal had the previous record of $3.6 million.
Williams continues to re-write history books. Having weathered devastating setbacks over the years, from health woes including suffering a pulmonary embolism in 2011 to the tragic shooting death of her sister Yetunde Price, Serena Williams continues to rise above.
When asked what remains to be achieved on or off of the court, Williams states,
One of my main goals is just to develop my charity even bigger. I’ve already opened two schools in Africa [with Build African Schools], and we’ve sent I don’t know how many kids to college in the States [through scholarships from the Serena Williams Foundation]. We’ve had a lot of college kids who have graduated. So that’s been amazing. For me, it’s one of the best things I’ve done and I want to continue to do that. So that’s my main goal: to keep helping kids and help people achieve their dreams. Because I know how it feels. And I would love to give other people that opportunity.
In addition to opening two schools for girls in Kenya, Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. Williams has an endorsement deal with Nike and a major hand in helping to design the apparel that she wears. The fashion designer has the Signature Statement collection at the Home Shopping Network. She also has ownership stakes in the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and in Mission Athletecare.
It is fair to state that the best is still yet to come (on and off the court) for Serena Williams. Eighteen Grand Slam titles and counting…
Sign up for the latest news on Team Fenom and women’s sports!