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40 greatest female athletes: Serena Williams

6/11/2012
Serena Williams has won more than $36 million in career prize money -- a record in women's sports -- plus tens of millions in off-court earnings. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam singles title when she was just 17, at the 1999 U.S. Open.

In 2002-03, Williams won four in a row -- the Serena Slam -- becoming just the fifth woman to hold all major titles at once.

And despite injuries, surgeries and setbacks, Williams, the No. 10 woman in ESPN's countdown, has won a total of 13 majors and has remained the most feared women's player on the planet for more than a decade.

"I think she'll be known for her intensity," says Pam Shriver, a former top-10 player and now an ESPN analyst. "When she is at her most dominant, she might be the most intimidating player ever."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King