Serena Williams Is Set To Make Waves At The US Open, So Here's Everything You Need To Know About Her Before It Begins
One of the world's most major tennis tournaments is about to kick up, and one of the world's best athletes is getting ready to take it on by storm. As Serena Williams prepares to head into the US Open, she's been getting a lot of much-deserved attention — and as one of the greatest athletes of all time, male or female, it's no wonder that she is. If you've had an Internet connection this year, you've probably seen talk of her; furthermore, with the US Open starting up on Monday and running for two weeks, you're probably about to see a lot more. So what exactly should you know about this tennis star?
2015 has been a year full of Serena Williams, from gross stories that seem intent on analyzing her body (top athletes have muscles, get over it) to seeing her glamorously grace magazine covers. There have been serious debates in sports media about whether she is, in fact, the greatest athlete of all time, and stories on celebrity gossip sites about who she might or might not be dating. But even more importantly, it's a big year for her in terms of her tennis career, which is still going strong. If you've never followed tennis, now would be a great time to start — because honestly, Serena Williams is never a bad reason to do anything.
So with the US Open right around the corner, here's what tennis newbies and pros should know about Serena WIlliams before the serves start flying:
The Grand Slam Record
You might have heard something about Serena Williams being on track to break a major record, and you heard right! In tennis, there are four major tournaments, called Grand Slams — the French Open, the Australian Open, the US Open, and Wimbledon. The record for most Grand Slam wins during tennis's Open Era — which began in the 1960s and allows both amateurs and professionals to compete in all tournaments — is currently held by Steffi Graf, who won 22 Grand Slams before retiring in 1999. But Serena Williams currently has won 21 Grand Slams, meaning that if she wins the US Open this year, as she is favored to do, she will tie Graf for the record.
Also worth noting: That record is not just the record for women. It's the most Grand Slams ever won by anyone, male or female. The record for most men's Grand Slams won is held by Rodger Federer at just 17.
Her Season So Far
So how is Serena's season going so far? Pretty amazingly, actually. Starting in January when she won the Australian Open, Serena has been pretty unstoppable this year. She celebrated her 700th career win at the Miami Open in March. She became the first woman during the Open Era to have won 50 matches at each of the Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in May. She faced off against her closest rival Maria Sharapova, who is ranked second in the world, twice and won both matches. (She has now defeated Sharapova 17 consecutive times and has not lost to the Russian player since 2004.)
But it hasn't all been rosy. Williams has had some trouble with injury; indeed, she had to withdraw from the Indian Wells tournament due to a knee injury, and from the Italian Open and the Swedish Open due to elbow injuries. However, they all fortunately seem to have been minor, and Williams seems to be back in full form, having just won the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati during the lead up to the US Open.
The Serena Slam
So what's this "Serena Slam" phrase you've heard floating around? It means that Williams is the reigning champion at all four Grand Slams. She won the US Open in 2014, so after winning The Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon this year, that means that she's won all of the most recent four Grans Slams and holds the title at each. It's a feat she's managed once before in her career during the 2002-2003 season. In the years between that Serena Slam and this one, no one else, in men's or women's tennis, has pulled it off.
And with the US Open coming up again, she could also become the first person to win all four Grand Slams in a single season since Steffi Graf managed in 1988.
She's Also Awesome Off The Court
Whether she's gracing the cover of Vogue, visiting the White House, or posting awesome pictures on Instagram, Serena Williams is also pretty great off the tennis court, too. She gives inspiring interviews, she supports charitable causes, and she is absolutely gorgeous. And while some of her past comments have been unfortunate, overall, Serena Williams is a pretty inspiring person.
Plus, she might be dating Drake, which has surely crushed the dreams of women everywhere, because it's not like anyone would be able to compete with her. You're (possibly) a very lucky man, Drake.
She's Been Doing This For A While
Serena Williams has been a star for so long and so consistently dominates that it's easy to just take for granted that she'll always be around; in fact, though, it's unusual for a tennis player to have such a long career. Serena Williams played her first professional tennis match in 1995 at the age of just 14, and she's been competing fairly consistently ever since. That means she's not only been playing for 20 years — much longer than an average career for female players — but even more unusually, she's continued to dominate even though she is now in her 30s, frequently beating much younger players.
Previous female tennis legends, such as Margaret Court who currently holds the all-time record for most Grand Slam wins, only won a handful of titles in their 30s. Steffi Graf never won any; her last Grand Slam victory before retiring was the 1999 French Open, just a few months shy of her thirtieth birthday. And yet Serena Williams, at age 33, shows no signs of wanting to retire, and certainly shows no signs of declining athletic ability.
Really, the fact that Williams has been this good for this long is something of a marvel in and of itself. Going into her 18th US Open, she is not only still a contender, but is by far favored to win.
So What's She Up Against?
It kind of seems like Serena is unbeatable at this stage — she's certainly going into the US Open with all the momentum behind her. But there's a long way between the start of the tournament and the shiny cup at the final. The US Open draw was released today, meaning we have some idea of what we might expect from the match-ups, and it looks like Serena could face an uphill battle.
Based on the bracket, Serena might have to contend with Sloane Stephens in the third round, who beat her in the 2013 Australian Open and came close to doing it again at the French Open this year. She's not expected to upset Serena, but she can't be ruled out, either.
In the quarter finals, Serena could face her sister Venus Williams. Though Venus is not expected to advance that far this year, if the two sisters do meet, it would certainly be an event, and risky for Serena. Venus has defeated Serena more times than any other top player, though Serena has won 15 of their 26 professional singles matches.
It's also possible that Serena might find herself in the quarter finals facing off against Belinda Bencic, who defeated Serena in a surprise upset in Toronto earlier this month. Although Bencic is not expected to advance as far as the quarter finals, she could have plenty more surprises in store.
Maria Sharapova, who is ranked number two in the world is in the same half bracket as Serena, meaning the two are expected to meet in the semi-finals. Though she has already lost to Serena twice this year, Sharapova is having an impressive season and is a top-notch athlete, and she has undoubtedly been training with an eye to at last beat Williams at the US Open.
And, as always, really anything can happen. That's the beauty of sports. So buckle up and get ready for two weeks of some of the best tennis you'll ever see.