Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year, and even she still can’t believe how far her career has come.
E! News caught up with the incredible athlete at the celebration for her award Wednesday where she opened up about her cover and the advice she would give young girls and even her younger self. Although many felt that Williams shouldn’t have won the award—some felt Ronda Rousey or even horse American Pharaoh should be honored instead—the tennis champion urged her fans and youngins’ to always give everything their all.
“I’d say just keep trying never stop. It’s so important to keep going and believe in your dreams,” Williams told us. “It’s just really special.”
Although many fans slammed the magazine for allegedly photoshopping her thighs to “look nonexistent,” the 34-year-old tennis champion tells us that she felt it was perfect.
“The cover I thought was really amazing,” she said. “It just captured everything.”
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Sports Illustrated selected Williams for the award because she “has made a very strong case as not only the greatest tennis player of her generation but of all time, and after the string of performances she put together in 2015, she is one of the most dominant athletes playing today,” Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum said in a statement.
Williams is the first woman to be selected since 1983, when track star Mary Decker received the title.
“This year was spectacular,” Williams said in a statement. “For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village—not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honored.”
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