Serena Williams: How the tennis great rewrote the playbook for female athletes juggling motherhood and sport

The 23-time Grand Slam winner was photographed at Sunset Beach in a Balenciaga gown, with Olympia’s face peeking out from behind the train in a powder blue dress.

“If I were a man, I wouldn’t have written this because I was playing outside and winning while my wife did manual labor to expand our family.

“I didn’t want to admit to myself or anyone else that I had to step away from tennis,” she added.

Williams has expressed emotional turmoil over making the decision to expand his family and relinquish his commitment to sports. It’s a predicament that many professional female athletes face in their sports careers.

“The pain of the article Serena spoke about, people don’t realize it. I’m glad she’s being so vocal about it,” said Team USA heptathlete Lindsay Flack. , in the opening scene of the new CNN movie. “Serena Williams: On Her Terms.”

“People don’t realize that sometimes they have to choose motherhood over athletics.

“It’s hard to choose one or the other, and definitely very difficult to do both.”

defy the odds

Early in her career, Williams learned to thrive as a black female athlete in situations she wasn’t built for her success.

Born in September 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan, and raised in the blue-collar neighborhood of Compton, California, Williams grew up with her older sisters Venus, Lindrea, Isha, Yetunde, and mother Olasen Price. Her father, Richard Williams, began tutoring her and Venus when they were both toddlers.

“Venus and Serena, knowingly or unknowingly, started playing tennis with the help of their father. They are black girls playing in this white world,” broadcast journalist Kari Champion said in the documentary. told CNN inside.

“He hoped he could teach his daughters that the white world of tennis is not your friend. I thought that if I could succeed in , I could do anything in life.”

As the sisters’ tennis abilities blossomed, so did the buzz surrounding their early careers.

In 1990, Venus became the top ranked female player under the age of 12 in Southern California, landing the cover of the New York Times and the pages of Sports Illustrated.

In 1991 the family moved to Florida and the sisters trained with a professional coach for the first time. After playing tennis away from his circuit for several years as a junior, Williams turned professional at the age of 14, a year after he left Venus.

new era

Rising to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Williams has proven he has the willpower to overcome many challenges, both professionally and personally.

In 1999, the 18-year-old Williams ushered in a new era when she defeated world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the US Open final to complete her first Grand Slam.

“It’s really great news. I’m really fine. It’s good news that minorities and other groups of people can watch tennis and see tennis in a different spotlight,” Williams said in a post-match interview. Told.

Williams kisses the trophy after defeating Martina Hingis in the US Open final.

At age 20, she became world No. 1 for the first time in her career after defeating defending champion Venus in the 2002 Wimbledon final. She then won all her four Grand Slam titles from 2002 to her 2003 and achieved her first “Serena Her Slam”.

But she and her family have endured racist abuse, most notably 2001 Indian Wells final — They also mourned the death of their half-sister, Prince Yetunde, who was murdered in Compton in 2003.

In 2006, Williams stepped away from tennis and fell out of the top 100 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.

Serena Williams has done it all in tennis and still has a long way to go

She entered the 2007 Australian Open at rank 81, according to the official tournament website. Despite her interruption, she maintained her invincibility, winning 6-1 6-2 over Maria Sharapova in the 63rd minute.

In the years that followed, Williams racked up her Grand Slam wins, winning three straight US Open titles in September 2014 and a seventh Wimbledon title in 2016.

“She was on fire”

As Williams entered the 30th year of her career, her next goal was to break Graff’s record for most singles titles in the Open Era.

In 2017, she did just that by defeating Venus in the Australian Open final.

“It feels great to get 23 guys,” Serena told reporters at the post-match press conference.

“She was on fire in this tournament. She was just beating guys up,” Renée Stubbs, a former professional tennis player and four-time Olympian, told CNN in the documentary. .

“What I didn’t realize was that she was already pregnant. It’s unreal.”

Flach found herself in a similar situation to Williams when she entered the 2021 Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, 18 weeks pregnant with her son Rylan.

“Even though I was pregnant, I wanted to do better,” Flack told CNN in the documentary.

Serena Williams with her daughter after this year's US Open match.

After announcing her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in December 2016, Williams gave birth to Olympia in September 2017.

In January 2018, she opened up about the numerous medical challenges she faced weeks after labor and delivery, telling Vogue: Emotions are insane. ”

Former softball player and Olympic medalist Jenny Finch had her first child, Ace, in May 2006. She told CNN that she, like Williams, found it difficult to deal with the emotional waves that came with motherhood.

“Being an athlete is selfish, isn’t it? You’re a fierce competitor. You’ve been that way all your life. And then this little kid comes along and steals your heart,” Finch said. .documentary.

“I feel like I’m being told to suppress soft emotions, like all of these things. This is what you’re faced with tearing your heart in two.

“I am still very grateful to be competing. It is still a big part of who I am and what I do. ”

control her story

In September, Williams’ tennis career presumably came to an end after losing to Australia’s Ajra Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open.

In a symmetrical moment of coincidence, she said goodbye on the court where she won her first Grand Slam.

“Without Venus, I wouldn’t be Serena,” she told ESPN in an on-court interview after the game. “She’s the only reason Serena Williams existed.”

Throughout her illustrious career, Williams has won two mixed doubles titles, including 73 singles titles, 23 doubles titles and 39 Grand Slam titles. She singled her single Grand Her Slam Title behind the all-time record held by Australian Margaret her coat.

Serena Williams' husband Alexis Ohanian and daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. watch her play in the first round of the 2022 US Open.

“For me, Serena is like the front man of a strong female athlete. I just showed it,'” WNBA player Nafisa Collier told CNN in the documentary.

From starring in Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” to six Oscar nominations for “King Richard,” to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Williams has paved the way for multifaceted careers for black female athletes.

“Growing up, I never thought I was different because the best players in the world were just like me,” said world number 12 Coco Gauff.

“She introduced the sport to people who had never heard of tennis. also told

Serena Williams pictured ringing the opening bell on the floor of the NYSE in New York, USA, Friday, August 26, 2022.

Looking to the future, Williams said she would be moving away from tennis to focus on her venture fund, Serena Ventures. The company has invested in her 66 startups, 78% of which were founded by women or people of color.

“We have watched her evolve into a beautiful and business-savvy young woman. We are confirming,” Champion said in the documentary.

“At the end of the day, I love who I am and who I am, and I love the impact I can have on people through businesses and women and people of color,” Williams once said.

“If I didn’t have the passion on the tennis court, I wouldn’t have the passion for what I’m doing now.”


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