With superlatives often failing to articulate her continued level of dominance, the greatest tennis player of her generation has shown once again that her achievements on the court are unmatched in the sporting landscape.
Serena Williams has been named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year, beating out a strong field of 11 other top shortlisted athletes and teams that included fellow tennis star Novak Djokovic, baseball’s World Series champion Kansas City Royals, women’s World Cup hat-trick hero Carli Lloyd and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
“This year was spectacular,” said Williams. "For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village – not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honored.”
Williams claimed SI’s highest honor on the back of one of the greatest seasons in tennis history. At age 33, she won her 19th, 20th and 21st Grand Slam singles titles, at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, respectively, to hold all four majors simultaneously for the second time in her career. With the sporting world hanging on her every point at September’s US Open, she fell just two match wins short of completing the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988.
Williams, previously named SI’s top female athlete of the decade in 2009, finished the year with a 53-3 record, five tournament titles (also winning premier events in Cincinnati and Miami) and the year-end No. 1 ranking for the third successive season and the fifth time overall. The 2015 season marked the second time Williams captured three of the four major titles in one year. In 2002, she won the final three Grand Slams of the season after missing the Australian Open with an injury.
“Even amid such a rich collection of finalists, Serena Williams was a decisive choice,” said Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone. “As a performer, as a doer, as a symbol, no one extended themselves and embraced the best (and worst) the sports world has to offer quite like Serena Williams.”
The six-time US Open champion is the fourth tennis player to receive Sportsperson of the Year honors, voted on by Sports Illustrated editors, joining Billie Jean King (1972), Chris Evert (1976) and Arthur Ashe (1992). She is the first woman to take home the award since University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt in 2011 and the first active female athlete to do so since the U.S. women’s soccer team was honored in 1999. The last individual women’s athlete to take home the award was speedskater Bonnie Blair in 1994.
Williams will be honored on Dec. 15 in New York City during a celebration that will include tributes to Jack Nicklaus, the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipient; Reece Whitley, the 2015 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKid of the Year; and Hunter Gandee, the 2015 SI High School Athlete of the Year..