For the 5th time Serena Williams tops the AP Female Athlete of the Year list.
She showed up in Paris wearing a black catsuit, a reminder that nobody can command the Grand Slam stage quite like Serena Williams.

Serena Williams of the US reacts after a point against Germany’s Julia Goerges during their women’s singles third round match on day seven of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2018. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

 

She reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, proving again how well she can play no matter how little she practices.
Williams didn’t win those or any other tournaments, which in every other situation might have made for a forgettable year.
In 2018, it was a remarkable one.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball during her Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Her rapid return to tennis after a health scare following childbirth was a victory in itself, and for that, Williams was voted The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the fifth time.

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 01: Serena Williams, Naomi Wadler, and Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner speak onstage during the KEYNOTE: FEARLESS, FIERCE & FABULOUS at The Teen Vogue Summit 2018 at 72andSunny on December 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alison Buck/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

Williams received 93 points in balloting by U.S. editors and news directors announced Wednesday, while gymnast Simone Biles was second with 68. Notre Dame basketball player Arike Ogunbowale was third, while Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim and swimmer Katie Ledecky, the 2017 winner, rounded out the top five.
All of those players won a title or titles in 2018, while Williams had to settle for just coming close a couple of times.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Naomi Osaka of Japan poses with the championship trophy after winning the Women’s Singles finals match against Serena Williams of the United States on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Now 37 and a new mother facing some players who weren’t even born when she turned pro in 1995, Williams isn’t the same person who ruthlessly ran her way to 23 Grand Slam singles titles — the last of which came at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant.
“I’m still waiting to get to be the Serena that I was, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be that, physically, emotionally, mentally. But I’m on my way,” Williams said on the eve of the U.S. Open final. “I feel like I still have a ways to go. Once I get there, I’ll be able to play even hopefully better.”

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 06: Serena Williams of the United States reacts during her women’s singles semi-final match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia on Day Eleven of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA)

The Male Athlete of the Year will be announced Thursday.
The women’s award has been won more only by Babe Didrikson Zaharias, whose six wins included one for track and five for golf.

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 01: Terry Crews (L) and Serena Williams attend The Teen Vogue Summit 2018 at 72andSunny on December 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

Williams’ previous times winning the AP honor, in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015, were because of her dominance.
This one was about her perseverance.
Williams developed blood clots after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1, 2017, and four surgeries would follow. She returned to the WTA Tour in March and played in just a pair of events before the French Open, where she competed in a skin-tight, full-length black catsuit.

PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 02: Serena Williams of The United States serves during the ladies singles third round match against Julia Georges of Germany during day seven of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on June 2, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

 

She said the outfit — worn partly for health reasons because of the clots — made her feel like a superhero, but her game was rarely in superstar shape. She had to withdraw in Paris because of a right pectoral injury and didn’t play again until Wimbledon, where she lost to Angelique Kerber in the final.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States looks dissapointed in the Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Williams came up short again in New York, where her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final will be remembered best for her outburst toward chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who had penalized Williams for receiving coaching and later penalized her an entire game for calling him a “thief” while arguing.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States reacts to umpire Carlos Ramos after her defeat in the Women’s Singles finals match to Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

That loss leaves her one major title shy of Margaret Court’s record as she starts play next year in a WTA Tour that will look different in part because of new rules coming about after issues involving Williams. Players returning to the tour may use a “special ranking” for up to three years from the birth of a child, and the exemption can be used for seedings at big events. Also, the tour says players can wear leggings or compression shorts at its tournaments without a skirt over them.
Williams insists she is still driven to play and win as much if not more than before she was a mother. That drive is the focus of a Nike ad showing her in action.
“Getting this far, crazy,” it says. “Stopping now, crazier.”
Williams won’t.

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 07: Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian attend the 2018 Brand Genius Awards at Cipriani 25 Broadway on November 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

“I’m still on the way up,” she said. “There’s still much more that I plan on doing.”
The rest of the top five:
Simone Biles, gymnastics . The American won four golds and six medals overall in the world championships in Qatar, giving her 20 in her career to tie Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most by a female gymnast.

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 03: Simone Biles of the USA competes on the the Floor during day ten of the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Aspire Dome on November 3, 2018 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

 

Arike Ogunbowale, women’s basketball . She hit one jumper to knock off previously unbeaten Connecticut in the Final Four, then a 3-pointer in the championship game to lift Notre Dame over Mississippi State.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 01: Arike Ogunbowale #24 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hoists the NCAA championship trophy after scoring the game winning basket to defeat the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in the championship game of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four at Nationwide Arena on April 1, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs 61-58. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

 

Chloe Kim, snowboarding . At 17, the Californian won the halfpipe Olympic gold medal in South Korea, where her parents were from before they immigrated to the United States.

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO – DECEMBER 08: Chloe Kim of the United States stands in the finish area after finishing a run in the Ladies’ Snowboard Halfpipe Finals at the 2018 U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on December 8, 2018 in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Kim went on to win the event. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 

Katie Ledecky, swimming . The 21-year-old U.S. Olympian tuned up for the 2020 Games in Tokyo by winning five medals in the city at the Pan Pacific Championships.

GREENSBORO, NC – NOVEMBER 28: Katie Ledecky looks on prior to the Women’s 800m Freestyle finals during the Swimming Winter National Championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on November 28, 2018 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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