Serena Williams, who held all four of tennis's grand slam titles for the second time in her career and won 53 of 56 matches in 2015, was honoured by Sports Illustrated as its sportsperson of the year on 15 December in New York. One day after the announcement, Sports Illustrated held a special awards dinner in Manhattan.
Williams is the first woman to be recognised with the honour as an individual since Mary Decker in 1983 and the magazine took the opportunity to rename its award from sportsman of the year to sportsperson of the year.
"I've been doing what I do for over twenty years professionally and that's a long time to be playing. And this is the first time I was ever recognised as sportsperson of the year. So it really, really meant a lot to me. And being a woman and being only the third to be recognised is pretty awesome," said Williams.
When asked what qualities make a great athlete, she said: "Determination and dedication. You have to be so dedicated to do what you want to do everyday and you have to be determined not to let anyone stop you."
On the cover of the magazine, Williams is dressed in a black leotard and high heels and sits open-legged on a gold throne. "I thought it was amazing. You can never be too hot," said Williams while talking about the cover photo.
The awards dinner was also attended by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, who received the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. "To finish the year up with the Ali award, a man who I've respected and known for a fair amount of time, it's great to be able to get an award like that," he said.
The 18-time major champion offered some advice to Tiger Woods, who is sidelined for the rest of 2015 after back surgery. "He's such a great athlete and such a good competitor. I think he'll come back, but don't hurt yourself. Be patient. He's got a lot of good golf left in him."
Woods, the 14-time major champion, hopes to return to competition in early 2016. But Nicklaus said when Tiger returns, he'll face some stiff competition. He said: "The young players that are coming along. We've got a bunch of young players that are really good. They have benefited from Tiger's misfortune.
"Instead of Tiger just dominating the game, they've had the ability to learn how to win without having somebody dominate over them. I firmly believe Tiger will be back and when he does, he's going to have a bunch of guys who are pretty hungry and trying to win and know how to do it."
Sports Illustrated also honoured 15-year-old swimmer Reece Whitley as its 2015 sports kid of the year. The issue with Serena on the cover will hit US newsstands later this week.