Serena Williams may finish her career as the greatest tennis player (regardless of gender) of all time. Her record and numerous champion wins cannot be debated. Her longevity, consistency and overall dominance, in a sport where blacks are seen more like the help, then as professional athletes, Serena has redefined what a tennis champion is and who they should be.
Serena and her older sister Venus Williams (born 1980) were groomed for a tennis career from the age of three years old by their father. With their signature style and play, Venus and Serena changed the look of their sport. Their sheer power and athletic ability overwhelmed opponents, and their sense of style and presence made them standout celebrities on the court. The close-knit sisters lived together for more than a dozen years in a gated Palm Beach Gardens enclave in Florida, but they went their separate ways after Serena bought a mansion in nearby Jupiter in December 2013.
In 1999, Serena beat out her sister Venus in their race to the family's first Grand Slam win when she captured the U.S. Open title. It set the stage for a run of high-powered, high-profile victories for both Williams sisters. In 2008, Serena and Venus teamed up to capture a second women's doubles Olympic gold medal at the Beijing Games. The next year, Serena and Venus purchased shares of the Miami Dolphins to become the first African American women to own part of an NFL team. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Serena claimed her fourth overall Olympic gold medal by teaming with sister Venus to defeat Czech Republic stars Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in women's doubles.
Seeking to add to her hardware collection in the summer of 2015, Williams had to overcome big sister Venus to advance past the fourth round at Wimbledon. A few days later, she defeated Garbine Muguruza in the final to claim her second career "Serena Slam" and become the oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open era.
At the 2015 U.S. Open, Williams again squared off with Venus in a tough quarterfinal matchup, this time pulling away in the deciding third set. The outcome left her two wins shy of the calendar year Grand Slam, a feat accomplished by just three women in the sport's history. But it was not to be. In a shocking upset, unseeded Roberta Vinci, ranked No. 43 in the world, dashed Williams' quest by pulling out a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win in the semifinals. Just hours after her singles win at Wimbledon in 2016, Serena and her older sister Venus won the doubles championship, their sixth Wimbledon win together.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the Williams sisters experienced a shocking upset when they were bounced out of the first round of women's doubles at the Rio Olympics by Czech duo Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova. The Williams sisters had originally been seeded as no. 1, had an Olympic record of 15-0, and had won gold three times previously. Williams scored a historic victory at the 2017 Australian Open, winning her 23rd Grand Slam title after defeating her sister Venus, 6-4 6-4. With her 23rd win, she surpassed Steffi Graf's total and captured the world number one ranking.
Reflecting on her victory, Williams credited her sister as an inspiration. "I would really like to take this moment to congratulate Venus, she is an amazing person," she said. "There is no way I would be at 23 without her. There is no way I would be at one without her. She is my inspiration, she is the only reason. I am standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist."
Celebrate Black History Month by watching Serena's recently released documentary on Hulu, called Serena.
Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.