Serena Williams has seen it all on her path to greatness - read more about her incredible story.
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From Compton to King Richard: The Story of Serena Williams

Nathan Baugh, Matt Trombley
Articles

Serena Williams has:

  • 39 Grand Slam titles
  • $94 million+ in career prize money

Here's how a girl from Compton, California became the best tennis player ever.

Serena was raised in Compton by her father, Richard, and mother, Oracene. Two quotes from Serena sum up her childhood:

  • “I never felt broke. We lived in a 2-bedroom house with 7 people.”
  • “I don’t know how my parents were able to make me feel that way. But they did. And it was special.”

On courts filled with potholes and frequented by gangs, Richard Williams taught his daughters tennis. By age 9, Serena was 46-3 on the junior USTA Tour and ranked #1 for under 10s.

Richard Williams taught his daughters how to play tennis at a young age.
Richard Williams taught his daughters how to play tennis at a young age.

But her father wanted her to focus on school. Richard pulled #1 Serena out of junior tennis tournaments. Instead, she was homeschooled and enrolled in a tennis academy - a move that was questioned by many.

In 1995, Richard removed Serena from the academy. He took over coaching full time. Of this, Williams said “Everyone does different things. For Venus and I, we just attempted a different road. And it worked for us.”

At the 1999 US Open, a 17-year-old Serena broke through. She defeated 4 Major champions in a row before beating #1 Martina Hingis to win her first singles Grand Slam. Serena ended that year, just her 2nd on the main tour, ranked 4th in the world.

Serena Williams won her first singles Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open.
Serena Williams won her first singles Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open.

From 2002 to 2003, Serena established herself as the world’s best. She won 4 Majors in a row:

  • 2002 French Open
  • 2002 Wimbledon
  • 2002 US Open
  • 2003 Australian Open

This was dubbed the “Serena Slam.”

Then, a knee surgery kept her off the court for 8 months. She fell out of the top 10. The press questioned her desire. Despite all this, Serena still won 2 Majors from 2004 to 2007.

Starting in 2008, Serena went on a tear like we may never see again.

  • 13 singles Grand Slam titles from 2008 to 2015 and Olympic gold in 2012
  • Ranked #1 for 186 consecutive weeks
  • Forbes highest paid female athlete in 2016 & 2017

What was Serena’s most impressive win? The 2017 Australian Open. She met her sister Venus in the finals, and won the match 6-4, 6-4. The title gave Serena 23 Majors, the most ever in the Open Era. Serena was 8 weeks pregnant at the time.

Williams saw her most impressive win in 2017 against sister Venus.
Williams saw her most impressive win in 2017 against sister Venus.

But what most people don't realize is that after giving birth, Serena suffered from pulmonary embolism. It’s a life-threatening condition where arteries in the lungs become blocked by blood clots. She needed emergency surgery and was bed-ridden for 6 weeks.

Amazingly, Serena returned to Grand Slam tennis 8 months later. She’s reached 4 Grand Slam finals, returned to the top 10, and won a singles title since giving birth.

Serena Williams is seen posing with her daughter Alexis.
Serena Williams is seen posing with her daughter Alexis.

Serena dominated the doubles circuit, too.

  • 14 Grand Slam doubles titles
  • All played with her sister Venus

The wildest part? They’re undefeated in doubles Grand Slam finals.

Serena and Venus Williams are undefeated in doubles Grand Slam finals.
Serena and Venus Williams are undefeated in doubles Grand Slam finals.

As for the title of greatest tennis player ever, you can make an argument for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Steffi Graf. But I’m taking Serena. Her level of dominance, both in singles and doubles, is unique.

  • 23 singles Majors
  • 14 doubles Majors
  • 2 mixed-doubles Majors

Off the court, Serena’s list of accomplishments is just as amazing:

  • Chief Sporting Officer - Aston Martin
  • Board of Directors - SurveyMonkey, Poshmark, Momentive
  • Minority Owner - Miami Dolphins
  • Founding Partner - Serena Ventures

Serena Williams went from learning tennis in Compton at the age of 4 to becoming the most decorated player of all time, the highest earning female athlete ever, and a founding partner at her own venture firm. It's hard to capture in words how truly legendary that is.

In November 2021, “King Richard” will be released in theaters. It’s the story of Serena’s father, Richard Williams. The movie stars Will Smith with executive producers Serena and Venus Williams. The movie looks amazing - check out the trailer below.


BONUS: Here's a quick clip on how Serena met her husband Alexis Ohanian - and it's not as romantic as you may expect.

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