Four-time Olympic gold medalist and 23-time major champion Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Decade Saturday by the Associated Press, ahead of runners-up Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky.
What’s remarkable about finishing ahead of those fellow U.S. Olympic champions is that their careers began in the last decade. Williams is in the middle of her third decade in pro tennis.
A great decade might represent an entire career for some tennis players, but not Williams, who rose to even greater heights in her 30s than she did in her 20s. Her decade of dominance started with injury concerns. Cuts to her foot via broken glass in 2010 caused blood clots in her lungs and sidelined Williams until March 2011. But Williams finished the decade with two more Olympic gold medals and 12 more Grand Slam singles titles—plus four Grand Slam doubles titles.
That most recent Grand Slam title was the 23rd of Williams’ storied career, the most of any player, male or female, in the Open Era. She is only one shy of tying Margaret Court’s all-time record. Williams was already the oldest woman in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam, but extended that record at the age of 35, proving she still had plenty left in the tank. And she did it at 20 weeks pregnant, subsequently missing the rest of the season and giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
Though she has yet to add to her Grand Slam win total since, Williams has made the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019. Now 38, Williams has no plans to retire, and if she desires, would be a favorite to represent Team USA at a fifth Olympic Games in 2020.