Serena Williams, who owned the tennis world this year even as she battled illness and injury, was named sportsperson of 2015 on Monday by Sports Illustrated.
The magazine said it was honoring the 34-year-old icon both for her positively stunning numbers and her pluck in achieving what it called one of the greatest late-career runs in the history of any sport.
Williams won three major titles, triumphed in 53 of the 56 matches she played and ranked number one for every week of the season for the second straight year.
And for six weeks this season, Williams had twice as many ranking points as the world number two player. Sports Illustrated said this was a first in the 40-year history of the WTA rankings.
But those stats mask a year that was “all internal discord and quelled revolts; Williams battled her body like never before,” Sports Illustrated said.
To wit: a cough and cold that had her vomiting during a match at the Australian Open, which she won anyway; bone bruises in both knees — “the residue of 20 years of pounding” — a right elbow strain and nasty flu at the French Open (again, she won).
In a powerful statement against racism, Williams also returned to play a tournament at Indian Wells, California, for the first time since 2001. That year she was greeted with boos and her family says she even endured racial slurs.
Williams called that return her “greatest moment in tennis.”
“Serena has made a very strong case as not only the greatest tennis player of her generation but of all time, and after the string of performances she put together in 2015, she is one of the most dominant athletes playing today,” Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum said.
“This year was spectacular,” Williams said of her latest accolade.
“For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village — not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honored,” she said, according to Sports Illustrated.