Serena Williams, from ghetto girl to Grand Slam queen!

Jan 29, 2017, 08:41 IST | AFP

Serena Williams started playing tennis on potholed courts in one of America's most notorious gangland neighbourhoods, but against the odds she has risen to become arguably the best player in the sport's history

Serena Williams during the 1998 Australian Open. Pic/Getty Images

Melbourne: Serena Williams started playing tennis on potholed courts in one of America's most notorious gangland neighbourhoods, but against the odds she has risen to become arguably the best player in the sport's history.

It hasn't been an easy journey in a white-dominated sport steeped in tradition, but Williams has pursued her goals with a determination just as fearsome as the raw power with which she plays her shots.

Strong but also quick, ruthless and fiercely competitive, Serena has been at the top for a generation, since she beat Martina Hingis aged 17 in the 1999 US Open final. Along the way she has been World No. 1 for a total of 309 weeks — a span of nearly six years — and won major titles against some of the greats: Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin and of course, her sister Venus.

After surpassing Steffi Graf's record of 22 major titles in the post-1968 Open era on Saturday, there's little else for Williams to achieve, barring Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 which will surely soon be hers.

It's all a long way from the pitted courts, sometimes missing nets and with gunshots audible nearby, of Compton in Los Angeles, where Serena practised with Venus from the age of five.

The youngest of five daughters was drilled intensely by her father, former sharecropper Richard Williams, who was happy to let schoolchildren hurl insults at his girls as they played. “In order to be successful you must prepare for the unexpected — and I wanted to prepare for that,” he told CNN in 2015.

Richard and Oracene Williams moved their family to Florida in the early 1990s, seeing their daughters needed more specialist coaching, with Serena already an outstanding junior. She turned professional in 1995, at the age of just 14. Two years later, she was in the top 100 and in January 1998 made her Grand Slam debut, reaching the second round of the Australian Open — where she was beaten by Venus.

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