2 OCT - 2022
“What you've done for women, and what you've done for the category of sport, period, is unprecedented. Win, lose or draw, it didn't matter, we all knew that you were the greatest." - Lebron James.
Being in the presence of Serena Williams gives you a certain kind of strength. On and off the court, she has an unexplainable ability to project her power onto any audience. The magnitude of Serena's influence goes far beyond women in sports. Inspiring thousands of athletes to begin their careers, be brave and not withhold their power.
The incredible unlikelihood of two young black girls from Compton, California, becoming world-famous tennis professionals, ultimately captured the hearts of millions worldwide. I hold the Williams sisters in the highest regard as role models for women in sports and media. From a young age, I understood that the world, not just tennis, was a better place because of what the Williams sisters accomplished.
My first memory of Williams was when she won the Australian Open in 2007. Serena had a tough season this year, facing injuries and a heart-wrenching depression after a relative was shot in her hometown. Mental health paired with general kindness in high-profile sports media wasn't apparent those days. Dad taught me well and explained that taking a hiatus for personal reasons should be respected. Serena pioneered her troubles with a loud voice in the leadup to this tournament. Being relatively young, I was struck as my dad was brought to tears in the early morning across the telly after Serena's Grand Slam win. Ranked 84th and found herself back on top defeating in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2 against Maria Sharapova.
Once I discovered my competitive side at 10 years old, I became much more interested in tennis. As a child, I used to like watching women's sports. Despite growing up in a rugby household, I was inspired by their feistiness and raw qualities that adults often warned me against, which felt ironic. Serena had an exceptional understanding of how I saw myself as an athlete. While I was educated to be diplomatic, gracious and ‘ladylike,’ Serena spoke her mind. Each swoop, spin, and grunt illuminated a new facet of femininity and encouraged me to embrace my unique sense of style. Serena garnered the admiration of her male counterparts across the globe for her aggressive play and outspokenness.
The title, "Best Female Tennis Player of All Time" doesn't quite adequately recognise what Serena has done. Serena went professional at 14 years old, meaning she's been around for over three decades of dominance. Her performance went beyond her matches as she dedicated her career to women, particularly women of colour.
"What you have done for the sport of tennis, what you've done for women, and what you've done for the category of sport, period, is unprecedented. Win, lose or draw, it didn't matter, we all knew that you were the greatest." - Lebron James.
Serena's plans for her "evolution," which she prefers to the word "retirement," demonstrate her dedication to empowering women.
Her company, Serena Ventures, was launched in 2014 to invest in entrepreneurs formed by women of underrepresented populations. She runs businesses, she's an activist, a mother, she just recently opened Vogue World in a custom Balenciaga gown and has just published a children's book. This woman has no limits, and we can see she will not be slowing down.
But her run with tennis has come to a close. With her hair glowing from sparkling diamonds, Serena twirled for the last time after her match beat Danka Kovinic, finishing on a high note and marking the beginning of her evolution away from tennis. Serena Williams was just 17 years old when she won the 1999 U.S. Open. On this day, she wore white beads in her hair. Serena's 4-year-old daughter Olympia sat in the stands to see her mum wearing white beads as a tribute to her incredible mother.
Her performance was forceful, tenacious, and, above all, unrepentant. Serena always played at her best, whether in 1995 or 2022. To no surprise, she is universally recognised as a legend of the sport. Her time on the court may be over, but her legacy will live on. She is Serena Williams, the Compton-raised player who began at age three and retired at age 40 as the sport's greatest of all time.