Sports Illustrated chose tennis superstar Serena Williams as their sportsperson of 2015. It is the first time in 30 years the publication named a female on her own for the award.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 14, 2015
Williams dominated her way through 2015 with a 53-3 record, winning three Grand Slam titles along the way. She lost the opportunity to win the calendar Grand Slam when Roberta Vinci defeated Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals.
“She was the most deserving person for the award. She had an amazing year. The way she won her events; the fact that she’s done this for so many years at such a high level,” declared SI editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “She was a terrific candidate in a year of terrific candidates.”
Williams did not win the calendar Grand Slam, but she did achieve the Serena Slam. She held all four Grand Slam titles at once: 2014 U.S. Open, 2015 Australian Open, 2015 French Open, and 2015 Wimbledon. She remained No. 1 all season, with absolutely no challengers within range to dethrone her.
Williams thanked SI on Instagram.
This year was spectacular for me. For @SportsIllustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village it’s not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored. I love you guys! 2016? #letsdoit ❤️
The publication last honored a lone woman in 1983 when they chose runner Mary Decker. The U.S. women’s national soccer team won the honor in 1999.
In 1984, gymnast Mary Lou Retton won along with male Olympian Edwin Moses. SI repeated that decision in 1994 with speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Johann Olav Koss.
“Men’s sports has dominated until recently, when women’s sports has grown in popularity, and the competition is better than ever,” explained Fichtenbaum. “There’s more of a focus on women’s sports now. It’s grown considerably. Specifically why? I’m not sure.”
SI also officially changed the name of the award to sportsperson. Even in cases like 1994 or 1984, each winner was known as their gender.
“We just felt this was a natural evolution. … We’re not making a huge deal out of it,” concluded Fichtenbaum. “It just feels like the right time to make the change.”