Call her “Slayrena!” Today’s win (Jan. 28) advanced the tennis player to her seventh Australian Open as the returning champ.
2015 was a good year for Serena Williams. She became the first female athlete to have a Sports Illustrated cover to herself, and the first black woman and first active tennis player since 1976 to be named its Sportsperson of the Year. Her body positive attitude challenged societal standards. Millions tuned in to see her beat her older sister, Venus, at the U.S. Open. Her championship titles at three of the four major tournaments plus one more left the world in awe. Her tenacity left them hooked. She finished 50-2 and ranked No. 1 in the world.
READ MORE: 2015’s Magnificent 7: People Who Championed, Changed & Challenged Us
But Williams’ presence on the court has been quiet for the last four months. The star took recess from the competitive world of tennis, following defeat at the U.S. Open semifinals in September. Her Grand Slam wins still totaled 21, trailing behind her goal of reaching Steffi Graf’s 22 and beyond. The defeat knocked the player’s eligibility for the first true Grand Slam—champion of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open in one calendar year—since Graf’s 27 years ago. Less than two months ago though, Williams signaled redemption, “2016? #letsdoit”—the foreshadowing of her first individual tournament since her loss, currently taking place on Melbourne hard courts.
Williams bounced back without a flinch today against Agnieszka Radwanska. Her opponent’s climbing performace record proved no match for the mindset and body strength months of rest gave Williams. The athlete told the New York Times, “Been really going hard since probably before the Olympics in 2012. That’s a long time. So I felt like I really committed myself, and I need to commit myself and my body and take some time off, restart.” Since her return, Williams overcame Camila Giorgi, Hsieh Su-wei, Margarita Gasparyan, and Maria Sharapova in addition to today’s semifinal win at 6-0, 6-4. Her final competitor in the tournament will be Graf’s cosign, Angelique Kerber, on Friday (Jan. 29).
The Australian Open every January starts the range of tournaments towards achieving a Grand Slam. The next one, the French Open, does not occur until May, with the rest following up into September. If Williams takes home the title in Melbourne, we can only imagine the slayage the determined athlete has ready for the months ahead.
Williams already has six U.S. Opens, three French Opens, six Australian Opens, six Wimbledons, and a Career Grand Slam.