Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked her world No. 1 in singles on six separate occasions. She became the world No. 1 for the first time on July 8, 2002, and achieved this ranking for the sixth time on February 18, 2013. On that occasion, she held the ranking for 186 consecutive weeks, setting the joint record with Steffi Graf for the most consecutive weeks as world No. 1 by a female tennis player. In total, she has been world no. 1 for 309 weeks, which ranks her third all time among female tennis players. Williams is regarded by some commentators, players and sports writers as the greatest female tennis player of all time.
Williams holds the most major singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female. Her record of 38 major titles puts her fourth on the all-time list and second in the open era: 22 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is the most recent female player to have held all four major singles titles simultaneously (2002–03 and 2014–15) and the third player, male or female, to achieve this record twice after Rod Laver and Steffi Graf. She is also the most recent player, together with her sister Venus Williams, to have held all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).
Her total of 22 Grand Slam singles titles marks the joint record for the most Major wins by a tennis player (male or female) in the Open Era, and is tied for second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court (24), She is the only tennis player – female or male – to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. She is also the only tennis player to have won 10 Grand Slam singles titles in two separate decades. She has won an all-time record of 12 Grand Slam singles titles on hardcourt. Williams holds the Open Era record for most titles won at the Australian Open (6) and shares the Open Era record for most titles won at the US Open with Chris Evert (6). She also holds an all-time record for the most singles matches won at the Grand Slams with 309 matches (through 2016 US Open quarter-finals).
She has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus, and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. As a team, she and Venus have the second most women’s doubles grand slam titles, only behind the 20 titles won by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Williams is also a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships in the singles division. Serena has also won four Olympic gold medals, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles—an all-time record shared with her sister, Venus.
The arrival of the Williams sisters has been credited with ushering in a new era of power on the women’s professional tennis tour. Williams was the highest paid female athlete in 2016, earning $28.9 million in prize money and endorsements. In December 2015, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (/ˈkæʃəs/) was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He had a sister and four brothers. He was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who himself was named in honor of the 19th-century Republican politician and staunch abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, also from the state of Kentucky.
Clay’s father’s paternal grandparents were John Clay and Sallie Anne Clay; Clay’s sister Eva claimed that Sallie was a native of Madagascar. He was a descendant of slaves of the antebellum South, and was predominantly of African descent, with Irish and English heritage. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother, Odessa O’Grady Clay, was a domestic helper. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius Jr. and his younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists. Cassius Jr. attended Central High School in Louisville.
Clay grew up amid racial segregation. His mother recalled one occasion where he was denied a drink of water at a store—”They wouldn’t give him one because of his color. That really affected him.” He was also affected by the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, which led to young Clay and a friend taking out their frustration by vandalizing a local railyard.