Serena Williams: 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the YearDecember 23, 2015
Serena Williams became the fourth tennis player to be named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. The first two won't be Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, not even John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. It would be Billie Jean King (1972) and Chris Evert (1974). It surprised some sports fan, but this recognition should be at the right place at the right time. Martina Navratilova was untouchable in 1983-84, but Mary Decker, Edwin Moses, and Mary Lou Retton captured public imagination. And it was the Olympic season. Arthur Ashe was given this special honor in 1992, long after he retired from the game. The editors of the magazine recognised his humanitarian causes.
The choice of Serena Williams wasn't hard to figure out. She was the oldest player to be ranked number one in the WTA Tour in the Open Era. She was two matches away from achieving a calendar Grand Slam. And she would like to give it another try.
"I'm not putting any pressure on it. I'd have to have a good year in the beginning, win Australia, win French - I've only won the French three times, so that's going to be a little difficult to do."
Five players stand in her way of winning three majors next season. Let's take a look at them:
Victoria Azarenka. Flinders Park was the site of the Belarusian's greatest victory, winning the Australian Open back to back. A foot injury forced her to miss much of the tour during the next two seasons. Her last five (out of six) matches with Serena Williams went the distance. Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena's current coach, thinks Azarenka is the only one who can challenge her ward. She needd to win more matches, but it remains to be seen if she can make a deep run in the Australian Open next month. A luck of the draw will be helpful, but fans shouldn't wait for long to see the resumption of the (Azarenka-Williams) rivalry.
Venus Williams. Serena prevailed over her big sister at Wimbledon and the US Open, and their fans shouldn't hold their breath for next season. Venus returned to the Top 10 after her late surge in the Asian swing, but the Grand Slam tournaments would be another thing. It was six years since her last finals appearance in a major tournament. The 35 year old is an inspiration to her older peers, and there are no signs of retiring from the game after the Rio Olympics. She may do better next season.
Madison Keys. This year's Australian Open semifinalist parted ways with Lindsay Davenport. Jesse Levine and newly-retired Lisa Raymond will join her team next season. The twenty year old plays like Venus, and Raymond, a doubles specialist, can make her adept at the net. Her breakthrough is only a matter of time, but only the Boca Raton native can tell if it will happen next year.
Karolína Plíšková. Serena Williams may have the most titles this year, but Plíšková had the most finals appearance. This could be a good sign, even a warning to the other players in the tour. The Czech has the same game as Venus Williams. Not good news to Serena.
Garbiñe Muguruza. She is number three in the WTA ranking, and many believe she can do better next year. She has Sam Sumyk in her box, the former coach of Azarenka and Eugenie Bouchard. She might be the next winner at Roland Garros. She can reach her second consecutive finals at the All England Club.
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