Serena Williams Named AP Athlete Of The Year

2009 was quite a year for Serena Williams. She ranted and raved, posed nude, got slapped with a fine, and shilled tampons for Tampax. But all that is water under the bridge now that she's the Athlete of the Year.

The Associated Press has named Williams the AP Female Athlete of the Year (and proving that they are not afraid of a little controversy, they also named Tiger Woods the Athlete of the Decade). Out of the 158 votes cast by editors and members of the AP, Williams received 66. This may not seem like a lot, but the runner up — Zenyatta, the first female horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic — only got 18 votes. And Kim Clijsters came in behind the filly, with just 16 votes, which makes Serena's win rather impressive.

This is not the first time the honor has been bestowed upon Williams. In 2002, she was also named the AP Female Athlete of the Year, but things are a little different this year. "I'm just happy and blessed to even be playing seven years later. All this is a bonus, really," she told the AP. "In 2002, I just was really dominant, and I think in 2009, I just brought that back. I kind of became that player again."

Considering the recent disciplinary actions taken against Williams for her outburst at the U.S. Open, "dominant" is an interesting choice of words. But Williams even suggests that her unsportsmanlike behavior could be good for tennis: "[it] got a lot more people excited about tennis," she claims. And on an even less contrite note: "People realize that I'm a great player, and one moment doesn't define a person's career. And I was right, for the most part: It wasn't right the way I reacted - I never said it was - but I was right about the call."

Fortunately, her hopes for 2010 are a little more humble. "My goal is to have a better year than '09 - and to stay healthy," she said. "I think if I can do that, I'll be fine."

Serena Williams Is 2009 AP Female Athlete of Year [AP]