The irrepressible Serena Williams is what they usually call superior male athletes  —a freak of nature. Encroaching on her 31st birthday, the youngest Williams sister just wrapped up one of the most dominant summers in the history of the United States Tennis Association — and did it at an age when most of her contemporaries contemplated retirement or actually did quit the game. She gored Agnieszka Radwanska to win Wimbledon in June, completely eviscerated Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 to win the gold medal in the London Olympics and survived a comeback scare to win the U.S. Open in August.

With her father Richard’s brilliantly implemented plan that began when she was just three years old, Serena and Venus have compiled two of the most brilliant careers in the history of the game — and have done it in such a way as to transcend the game itself, becoming cultural icons, record-breakers, barrier-shatters and cultural ambassadors.

www.womenstennisblog.com, celebrityworth.com and biography.com help us chart the rise — and continued excellence — of Serena Williams, arguably the greatest tennis player we’ve ever seen.

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