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.
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.
No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).
No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.