Serena Williams was born 35 years ago today; in honor of the 22-time Grand Slam champion, espnW collected testimonials from some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment, all of which were answers to a simple question: What does Serena mean to you?
"I know the numbers and the stats and the records, but I feel her career is the best in the history of the game even without those. I truly believe that," notes rival and fellow former No.1 Victoria Azarenka. "I have always admired the way she's handled the ups and downs of her career, and she's always had that champion mentality and the fighting spirit. It's just amazing.
"To me, she's always been the toughest opponent you can have, but also the most exciting. I've always looked forward to playing against her, because that's when you truly test yourself or your level. It's always exciting to me. In my mind, she's the greatest player ever, regardless of the record."
Grammy-award winning artist Usher also gave his thoughts:
"She is a walking goddess. Amazing. Feminine. Strength. Let's take gender and all of that out for a minute, and just focus on an amazing athlete. I know that I couldn't stand up against her. She's amazing ... There's a lot that comes with the expectation of who people perceive you to be, then you could just be who you are. She's a very elegant woman."
Serena has clearly inspired the next generation of athletes, says CoCo Vandeweghe.
"Serena is an amazing athlete and an amazing tennis role model for all players. She's one of the greatest players of all time. I think Serena should definitely be praised for all of her accolades on and off the court. She's definitely a role model for all players to look up to. ... It's just herself in general -- her presence on and off the court, what she's brought to women's sports and, selfishly, women's tennis."
Finally, few could describe what Serena means to them better than her own sister, Venus Williams.
"Probably the world. We love each other. We have so much fun together and we enjoy each other, so I think that has made our life meaningful."