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Serena Williams, Sports Illustrated, Sportsperson of the Year

Yu Tsai for Sports Illustrated

In a lineup of twelve esteemed athletic figures, Serena Williams has been named this year's Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated

The 34-year-old tennis champion has had one of the most vigorous professional years of her tennis career thus far, winning her 19th, 20th and 21st Grand Slam titles, defeating her sister Venus Williams at the U.S. Open and sustaining a #1 ranking throughout the entire season for the fifth time in her career despite many physical injuries.

"Serena 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. 

Serena Williams

AP Photo/David Goldman

As the first female athlete to be honored with the title alone since track star Mary Decker in 1983, this honor emboldens Williams to forge ahead toward more impressive endeavors. 

"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."

Despite a hallmark year, however, the athlete is weary of high praise. 

"I do want to be known as the greatest ever," she said during her interview with SI. 

American Pharaoh, Air Horse One

CNBC

According to many readers who weighed in, she should not have won the title at all. 

In this year's readers poll, Williams' nomination severely lacked the support of the public. She was out favored by nearly every other nominee in the running, including Ronda Rousey, Carli Lloyd and the Kansas City Royals.

In a surprising twist, the winning nominee of the poll wasn't even a person—it was the American Triple Crown-winning racehorse American Pharaoh. 

Still, Williams came out on top—just like she plans to do in the upcoming new year.

"2016? #letsdoit," she wrote on her Instagram account while unveiling the magazine cover.