Greatness is always expected of Serena Williams, one of this generation’s greatest athletes. In 2018, she had moments of greatness with two appearances in Grand Slam finals, although neither came with a championship.
Still, it was one of Williams’ most remarkable years of her remarkable career because of what she overcame. Coming off the birth of her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., Williams returned to near-peak form incredibly quickly.
For overcoming such adversity, Williams was named The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the fifth time on Wednesday. Having previously won in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015, Williams only trails Babe Didrikson Zaharias for most titles (six).
Williams received 93 votes from editors and news directors around the U.S., edging out gymnast Simone Biles (68). The rest of the top five included Notre Dame basketball player Arike Ogunbowale, snowboarder Chloe Kim and 2017 winner and swimmer Katie Ledecky. The Male Athlete of the Year will be announced Thursday.
Williams overcame immense obstacles
After giving birth to her daughter in September 2017, Williams developed blood clots, which required four surgeries. She returned to the World Tennis Association in March and played in a two events before the French Open.
At the start of the tournament, Williams wore a form-fitting black catsuit, which she said she wore for health reasons. The suit would later be banned from the tournament, and Williams eventually had to withdraw because of a right pectoral injury.
Williams returned in time for the Wimbledon, where she finished runner-up to Angelique Kerber. Williams once again finished in second to close the year, this time losing to Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open. With 23 career Grand Slam titles, she remains just one shy of Margaret Court’s record of 24.
Other notable finalists
Although Williams once again was voted the winner of the annual award, there were many other worthy candidates who received votes.
Biles was excellent two years after starring at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She won six medals (including four golds) at the world championships, giving her 20 in her career — tied for the most among female gymnasts. Ogunbowale helped lift the Fighting Irish to its second National Championship, toppling previously undefeated Connecticut in the process.
Meanwhile Kim won gold at the halfpipe in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at just 17, and Ledecky won five medals at the Pan Pacific Championships.
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