MI Black History: Michigan’s Superstar Tennis Player

Q: Who is the Michigan-born African-American tennis player who has won more than 20 Grand Slam singles titles and several Olympic gold medals?

A: Serena Williams. Born in Saginaw in 1981, her family moved to Compton, Calif. while she was still very young. By the time she was 3, she had started to play tennis along with her sister, Venus. The family moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., when Serena was 9, so that she could attend a professional tennis academy. Her first professional event came at the age of 14, which she lost in the first round of qualifying. In 1997, when she was ranked 304th in the world, she took part in the Ameritech Cup Chicago, where she upset the 7th-ranked and 4th-ranked players to become the lowest-ranked player in the open era to defeat two top-10 opponents in a single tournament. From there, Serena racked up win after win, and today is considered the world’s top women’s singles tennis player — a title she’s held on six separate occasions. Williams holds the most major singles, doubles and mixed-doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female. Williams was the second-highest paid female athlete in 2015 earning $11.6 million in prize money and $13 million from endorsements. In December 2015, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.

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