Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press on Wednesday, marking the fifth time she has won the award.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion returned to tennis following a health scare during and after the birth of her first child, daughter Olympia, in September 2017. Williams had an emergency C-section, sustained blood clots that required multiple surgeries, and was confined to her bed for six weeks. She returned to competition five months after Olympia’s birth, and was outspoken about the difficulties she faced in coming back to tennis. Donning a catsuit at the French Open, Williams posted on Instagram, “For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy—here you go. If I can do it, so can you.”
Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in her first competitive season as a mom, though she did not win either tournament. She also used her platform to push for rule changes at WTA events: beginning in 2019, players can use a “special ranking” for up to three years from the birth of a child when returning to the tour, which can be utilized for seeding at major events, and the tour will now allow players to wear leggings or compression shorts without the requirement of a skirt or dress over them.
The 37-year-old received 93 votes from U.S. editors and news directors. Simone Biles was second in voting, with 68 votes, and Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale finished third. Also in the top five was Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim and 2017 winner Katie Ledecky. Williams previously won the award in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Only one woman – Babe Didrikson Zaharias – who won once for track and field and five times for golf, has won the award more times than Williams.
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