Serena Williams is now the highest paid female athlete in the world.
The American tennis player earned $28.9 million (USD) over the last 12 months according to Forbes (she's still paid about $50 million (USD) less than the highest paid male athlete).
While she's very deserving of the highest paid status, let's take a look at the woman behind the cash cheque. Serena Williams; talented tennis player, grand slam winner, younger sister to tennis star Venus Williams and an advocate standing up for equality and sportswomen the world over.
1. She’s been at the top of her sport for nearly two decades.
The 34-year-old won her first grand slam title in 1999 when she beat her older sister, Venus Williams, at the US Open. Since then she has won 38 grand slam titles and 21 grand slam singles titles - one behind the current record. She has one of the most powerful serves in the women’s game and has been hailed by many as (arguably) the greatest female player of all time.
2. She fought for equal pay.
The tennis star has constantly fought for equal pay with a memorable quote making headlines in March this year. When tennis player Novak Djokovic made a comment about men deserving more than women Willaims replied in a press conference.
"Novak is entitled to his opinion but if he has a daughter — I think he has a son right now — he should talk to her and tell her how his son deserves more money because he is a boy," she said.
Williams further proved her argument when the women’s singles final sold out faster than the men’s singles final at the US Open. This happened because people were hoping to see Williams win her 22nd singles title, to match Steffi Graf’s current record. Although she didn’t win, she proved women can pull crowds faster than men.
3. She went back to Indian Wells despite her past, horrible experience.
Williams returned to the Indian Wells tournament in 2015 after boycotting it for 14 years. It was a moment that showed her strength, determination and honour. In 2001, a young Serena was booed by her home crowd at the finals of the tournament; her family were booed in the stands. The negativity came from fans' disappointment after Venus pulled out of her semi-final match against Serena due to injury. The scenes were confronting and the women's father, Richard Williams said it was racial abuse in a press conference days after the incident.
Williams played at the tournament again this year (2016). During the tournament she had to respond to remarks made by the tournament director, Raymond Moore, about women. Moore said, "If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
Williams replied with this comment, “I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that...I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways.”
4. She constantly proves that strong and powerful is beautiful.
When body shamers started commenting on photos from Williams' Instagram account in 2015, she had the most empowering response. The athletic role model spoke on American Morning TV, in response to the shamers.
"I've been like this my whole life, and I embrace me and I love how I look. I love that I am a full woman, and I'm strong and I'm powerful and I'm beautiful at the same time. And there's nothing wrong with that…I just don't have time to be brought down. I have too many things to do, you know. I have Grand Slams to win. I have people to inspire. And that's what I'm here for," she said.
5. She opened two schools in Kenya in 2008 and 2010.
With a strict rule to have at least 40 percent female students. Enough said.