Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year — the first female athlete honoured on her own by the magazine in more than 30 years.
Williams came within two matches of tennis’ first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988, a bid that ended with a semifinal loss at the U.S. Open.
In all, the 34-year-old American went 53-3 during 2015 with five titles, including at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Williams was No. 1 in the WTA rankings all season.
The cover photo of Williams in high heels, sitting on a throne was “her idea, intended… to express her own ideal of femininity, strength, power,” managing editor Christian Stone wrote on SI.com.
This announcement marks a switch to the formal name of the SI award; past recipients were touted as Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year.
Runner Mary Decker in 1983 was the last female athlete to earn the magazine’s award by herself.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team was picked by SI in 1999; speedskater Bonnie Blair in 1994 and gymnast Mary Lou Retton in 1984 were co-honorees with male Olympians. In 2011, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt shared the award with Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Other tennis players honoured by SI were Arthur Ashe in 1992, Chris Evert in 1976, Billie Jean King in 1972.