Few could argue that the woman who more-or-less dominated the sporting industry in 2015 was tennis superstar, Serena Williams. She is considered tennis royalty, and in a move that is befitting of such a title, she made history today by being named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 “Sportsperson of the Year,” marking the first time an individual woman has received the honour in over 30 years. That is what you’d call, one hell of an accomplishment.
She received the accolade thanks to a series of record-breaking performances on tennis courts across the globe over the past 12 months; the 34-year-old came within two matches of tennis’s first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988. In her sixth Wimbledon, she won her 4th consecutive Grand Slam title, as well as the 21st title of her career, so she is literally at the top of her game right now and paving the way for which future female athletes can follow.
Serena is the first individual woman to be named SI’s SPOY since 1983. Meaning it hadn’t happened in my lifetime.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) December 14, 2015
Past recipients of the award include Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King, while the last individual female athlete chosen was track star Mary Decker in 1983.
“This year was spectacular,”Williams said. “For Sports Illustrated to recognise my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village — not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honoured.”
Her amazing career thus far is reason enough to give her the prestigious title, but it’s also essential to note her sheer commitment to the sport, even through injury:
According to Sports Illustrated, a cough and cold had her vomiting before and, for the first time, during a match: the Australian Open final, in January, which she won anyway. She also had bone bruises in both knees which never subsided.
“I was crying so hard,” Serena said. “I didn’t want to win. I just wanted to go home. I said, ‘I can’t play anymore.’ ” But her achievements aren’t just on the court; she remains an inspiration to women on many levels. She has also been championing self-love and body image in numerous interviews (JK Rowling has her back), and in September, she perfectly shut down a reporter who asked her why she wasn’t smiling (why is it women always seem to be asked this ridiculous question?).
The announcement also marks a major departure from tradition in terms of the name of the title: Sports Illustrated always called their winners Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year, but they’ve officially changed it to “Sportsperson,” so they are at least striving for some equality. “We just felt this was a natural evolution. . . We’re not making a huge deal out of it,”Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group said. “It just feels like the right time to make the change.”
Her drive and dedication to her career have seen her excel and she is being rightfully lauded for her passionate commitment. Let’s just hope wheels have been set in motion, and that it doesn’t take the publication another 30 plus years to honour a female sports star with this title.