By Ryan Williamson | Dec. 26, 2018, 6:35 p.m. (ET)

Serena Williams competes at the US Open on Sept. 6, 2018 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

 

For women’s tennis star Serena Williams, 2018 was all about getting back on the court after the birth of her first child. Williams’ determination was honored on Tuesday.

The Associated Press named Williams its 2018 Female Athlete of the Year. It’s the fifth time Williams has taken home this award. The only woman to claim this honor more is Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the Texas native who won the award six times for her triumphs in both track and golf.

Williams, 37, previously won the honor in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015. While many of those came due to her victories at major tournaments, Williams earned the honor this year mostly for her return to the court.

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On Sept. 1, 2017, Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Despite complications, Williams returned to professional tennis in March 2018, just six months after giving birth. 

Her first major back was the French Open, where she grabbed headlines for her full-length black catsuit. After withdrawing due to a pectoral injury, Williams returned for Wimbledon. Williams reestablished herself as one of the sport’s brightest stars where she made it to the final. She would also advance to the final at the US Open. 

Williams’ win caps off an impressive year for American women. All five finalists for this year’s award were American women. Five-time Olympic medalist gymnast Simone Biles had the second most votes after bringing home six medals at this year’s world championship.

Notre Dame women’s basketball standout, Milwaukee native and 2014 Youth Olympic gold medalist Arike Ogunbowale finished third. 2018 Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Chloe Kim finished fourth while five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky finished fifth.

Ryan Williamson is a sportswriter from Minneapolis-St. Paul. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.