American star tennis player Serena Jameka Williams turns 31 today. She was born on September 26, 1981. She is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
The Women’s Tennis Association has ranked her World No. 1 in singles on five separate occasions. She became the World No. 1 for the first time on July 8, 2002, and regained this ranking for the fifth time on November 2, 2009. She is the only female player to have won over $40 million in prize money.
Williams has won four Olympic gold medals, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles. On 4 August 2012, she became the second player after Steffi Graf to win a career Golden Grand Slam after winning the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in Wimbledon, and the first player in history, male or female, to win the Career Golden Grand Slam in both singles and doubles.
Serena Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, to Richard Williams and Oracene Price. She is of African American heritage and is the youngest of Price’s five daughters: half-sisters Yetunde (1972–2003), Lyndrea and Isha Price, and full sister Venus.
Serena started playing tennis at the age of five in Compton, California. Her father home-schooled Serena and her sister Venus and to this day, Serena Williams was and remains coached by both her parents.
Williams’ family moved from Compton to West Palm Beach when she was 9 so that she could attend the tennis academy of Rick Macci, who would provide additional coaching.
Macci spotted the exceptional talents of the sisters. He did not always agree with Williams’ father, but respected that “he treated his daughters like kids, allowed them to be little girls”. Richard stopped sending his daughters to national junior tennis tournaments when Williams was 10, since he wanted them to take it slow and focus on school work.
Another motivation was racial, as he had allegedly heard parents of white players talk about the Williams sisters in a derogatory manner during tournaments. At that time, Williams had a 46–3 record on the United States Tennis Association junior tour and was ranked No. 1 among under-10 players in Florida.
In 1995, when Serena was in the ninth grade, Richard pulled his daughters out of Macci’s academy, and from then on took over all coaching at their home. When asked in 2000 whether having followed the normal path of playing regularly on the junior circuit would have been beneficial, Williams responded: “Everyone does different things. I think for Venus and I, we just tried a different road, and it worked for us.”