Serena Williams is ranked the No. 1 tennis player in the world and it’s a title she has earned since she went pro in 1995. While she holds several titles, one of her biggest accomplishments came on Sept. 11, 1999, when she became the first African-American woman to win the U.S. Open at the age of 17, after Althea Gibson in 1958.
On that sunny day at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, Williams beat Martina Hingis 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to win the title. At the time Williams was honored to not only win the title, but to also mark a milestone for African-American women in tennis. She told reporters, “It's really amazing for me to even have an opportunity to be compared to a player as great as Althea Gibson. One of her best friends told me she wanted to see another African-American win a slam before her time is up. I'm so excited I had a chance to accomplish that while she's still alive."
She became the No. 1 tennis player in the world until 2002. She not only beat three of the top four women in the world — Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles — she also earned a $750,000 purse, a handsome reward for a teenage athlete.
Overall, Williams had a stellar year in 1999. She was pro for two full years, and she was already a force to be reckoned with. Williams put on an amazing performance early in the year, when she won her first professional singles title, defeating Amelie Mauresmo in the final of the Open Gaz de France. A month after that triumph, Serena won at the Evert Cup, followed by a win with sister Venus in the doubles at the French Open.
Serena Williams is currently the oldest No. 1 player in World Tennis Association history. She is currently the reigning French Open, U.S. Open, WTA Tour Championships and Olympic ladies singles champion.
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(Photo: Jamie Squire /Allsport)