Serena Williams’ temperament flows in waves of streaming definition. All emotion. All defiance. All heart.
Much of that personality has taken on a life of its own over the course of a 13-year career, culminating with her winning her second straight Australian Open and fortifying Williams’ standing as the unofficial first lady of the World Tennis Association and the only female athlete to gross upwards of $30 million in prize money.
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Who could have predicted the success of a now 28-year-old star who, along with her older sister, was largely taught the game on the debris-strewn courts of Compton by an untrained father?
There was no junior circuit or structured training regiments to speak of. But there was the resolve of a determined father and the willful nature of his youngest child to appease.
“My dad was watching TV one day and overheard one of the announcers say the winner would make $40,000 in prize money,” recalls Serena. “That blew his mind; it was more than he made in a year. After that, there was no way I was going to disappoint him or myself.”
From this unlikely beginning, fans everywhere have been sold on the wondrous talents of the 19-time Grand Slam champ (counting singles and doubles) and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
These days, Williams is known nearly as much for her exploits outside the white lines as for her dominance within them. She recently caused a firestorm by posing nude for an ESPN Magazine cover. Before that, Williams was fined a tour record $92,000 following a verbal match with a USTA linesmen that dared to call a foot fault against her during a defining moment at the 2009 U.S. Open.
In between all the drama, she lent her name to the opening of a grade school in Kenya and became a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins, joining other celebs including sister Venus, Marc Anthony and Gloria Estefan.
“It’s a little mixing business with pleasure,” smiles Williams, who has been spotted at Dolphins’ Stadium cheering her team on during more than a few occasions. That’s so Serena: always willing to blur the lines, particularly when she sees the gamesmanship in it.