In a year where she was denied just one major trophy, Serena Williams ends 2015 with perhaps the highest honor of her career, as Sports Illustrated named the tennis legend their Sportsperson of the Year on Monday.
The highly accomplished Williams had a 2015 for the ages. She finished with a 53-3 record, a 94.6 winning percentage, and won three of the four tennis Grand Slam events despite battling illness and injuries at multiple turns. Williams beat contenders like golfer Jordan Spieth and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for the award.
Williams, 34, became the oldest player to be ranked world No. 1 in women’s tennis during the Open era and created the largest gap between first place and the field in tennis history. Her victory at Wimbledon marked the second time Williams completed the “Serena Slam,” named for Williams winning all four Grand Slams in a row but not in the same calendar year. She did it first in 2002-2003 but completed it again, starting with her win at the 2014 U.S. Open, followed by titles at the Australian Open in January, the French Open in June and with her sixth Wimbledon championship in July.
Her 21 Grand Slams in the Open era place behind only Steffi Graf (22) for the most all-time. Williams is the only tennis player to have six titles at three of the four Grand Slam events and the only player to win 10 Grand Slam titles in separate decades.
Williams becomes the third woman to have the Sportsperson of the Year award all to herself and the first since Mary Decker won in 1983. Chris Evert won the first woman to win the award outright.
Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was the most recent woman to win when she shared the award with Duke Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2011. The most recent tennis player before Williams was Arthur Ashe in 1992 and the first tennis player to win the award was Billie Jean King in 1972, when she split the honor with UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
“This year was spectacular for me,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village it’s not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored. I love you guys! 2016? #letsdoit.”