That 24-0 start
Talk about hitting the ground running. Serena went unbeaten from the first round of the Australian Open to the semi-finals of the Madrid Open in May (if you’re happy to overlook her withdrawal from the Indian Wells semi-finals – and we are).
Back at Indian Wells
The cheers and tears that met Serena as she walked out at the BNP Paribas Open in March were 14 years in the making after a boycott that stretched back to 2001, when both she and Venus were booed and allegedly subject to racial slurs during the 2001 tournament after her sister’s semi-final withdrawal.
Bug-zapping in Paris
Serena wasn’t just battling seven opponents at the French Open – she was also struggling with flu. Shortly after her semi-final win over Timea Bacsinszky she ‘just kind of collapsed’ in her words, and skipped practice and her pre-match press duties ahead of the final, but somehow found a way to beat Lucie Safarova and win her 20th major.
By the time Williams had won Roland Garros the hard way, fighting back from a break down in the third, a theme was already developing. Eleven of her 26 Grand Slam matches went to three sets, including get-out-of-jail wins against Victoria Azarenka in Paris and Heather Watson at Wimbledon, testament to her battling instincts when it mattered.
Serena Slam II
Such was the immediate focus on Serena’s calendar slam bid after her Wimbledon victory, it’s easy to forget that she held all four majors at that time – and for the second time in her career. Only Rod Laver has laid claim to all four trophies twice in his career, with his 1962 and 1969 Grand Slams.
Dancing with Djokovic
Reviving a Wimbledon tradition that formally ended in 1977, Novak Djokovic invited Serena Williams to dance at the Champions’ Ball – and instantly found himself playing second fiddle to his on-stage partner:
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2015
Twice as good
As if to underline her dominance, Williams’ post-Wimbledon rankings lead was the largest in WTA history. The 33-year-old hit 13,161 points, more than double second-ranked Maria Sharapova on 6,490.
Two wins away
There’s a reason no player –man or woman – has completed the Calendar Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. Going 28-0 at the majors in a single season gets more gruelling, exhausting and pressurised with every passing win, not least when you are trying to complete the last leg in front of fervent national support. A set away from the US Open final, Serena finally fell short to Roberta Vinci in what will go down as one of the great Grand Slam upsets in history.
That tweet to Pennetta
It was a crushing blow to Williams, who could not get out of Arthur Ashe Stadium fast enough in the wake of her defeat. But in the wake of Flavia Pennetta’s victory the next day – and subsequent shock announcement that she was calling time on her career – Williams was among the first to congratulate the Italian:
@flavia_pennetta congrats I'm so happy you won. You deserved it. I am also happy for the rest of your life's journey. I will miss your smile
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) September 12, 2015
Three defeats. Three.
Serena shut down her 2015 season after the US Open, both physically and emotionally drained by her exploits up to September. With that, she ended the year with a 53-3 record, with only Petra Kvitova, Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci emerging victorious against the world No.1.
Acing Fashion Week
The tennis season may have been over, but Williams certainly didn’t retreat into the shadows. Just four days after her loss to Vinci, she showcased her fringe-heavy HSN Signature Statement line at New York Fashion Week, branded “a smash hit collection” by Vogue.
Tennis phenom, fashionista, superhero? That’s what Williams dubbed herself after a bizarre incident in November when she chased a would-be thief and recovered her own iPhone while dining with friends at a Chinese restaurant:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 5, 2015
Beating a horse…
Even after the year she’d had, Williams faced stiff competition for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year award. There was Novak Djokovic, for one, basketball star Steph Curry, World Cup hat-trick hero Carli Lloyd and, well, a horse. American Pharoah won the first Triple Crown in 37 years to earn his nomination and somehow won the readers’ vote, but the Sports Illustrated team saw sense.
…before quoting Maya Angelou
Quite how the colt would have delivered his acceptance speech is a question for the ages, but Williams stole the show in New York. Presented her award by Venus – incredibly, at the age of 35, named comeback player of the year – Serena produced a stirring turn at the podium, ending with a line from the late American poet Maya Angelou: “I rise, I rise, I rise.”
Starting over in 2016
While the focus will always be one match at a time, Serena admitted that the elusive Calendar Slam remain front and centre among her goals. “It is, obviously,” she said in New York. “I’ve never done it.” With the Olympics also in play in 2016, could she go one better and target Steffi Graf’s Golden Slam of 1988? Time will tell…
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