Serena Williams reached back-to-back Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open this year, but it was her resilience in the face of adversity that has earned her the title of the Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year.
“Her rapid return to tennis after a health scare following childbirth was a victory in itself, and for that, Williams was voted The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the fifth time,” said AP Sports Writer Brian Mahoney.
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It’s the fifth time in her career that Serena has won the AP honor, with her previous four awards coming in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015 - years that were marked by a period of dominance.
But in 2018, it was all about Serena’s perseverance and determination: the 23-time Grand Slam champion gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September of 2017 in an emergency Ceasarean section, and she then found herself having to fight for her life in the days that followed after developing blood clots in her lungs, needing four surgeries to treat the life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Despite her health struggles, Serena never wavered from her goal of winning Grand Slam No.24, and in 2018 she was one win away on two occasions.
She returned to WTA action in March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, and went on to reach the championship match at Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as make a run to the fourth round of Roland Garros.
As a result, Serena received 93 points in balloting by American editors and news directors, the Associated Press announced on Wednesday. She beat out gymnast Simone Biles (who was in second with 68), Notre Dame basketball player Arike Ogunbowale, Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim and swimmer Katie Ledecky.