Browse all

Grace & power of Serena Williams


Grace & power of Serena Williams  Pictures

How many have done better?

23. Like the Grand Slam titles won by Serena Williams: in Melbourne, she scored her twenty-third success in Grand Slam by beating her sister Venus in what has been a historic final and special for the tennis world. For this occasion, Nike and Jordan reunited together, in order to create a special basketball shoe to celebrate Serena’s success: the shoes are limited and have the number 23 on the hill to remind all of us both Michael Jordan and Serena Williams’s victories. 

The Australian Open victory in 2017 allowed Serena to write a new and indelible page of history positions the American tennis player as a sports legend. With this triumph, Serena definitely surpasses Steffi Graf, former tennis queen and winner of 22 Grand Slam, proving again how the tenacity and ability to never give up can break down racial walls and negative periods.

This Serena Williams’s story is not just one story, which sport is telling us and has told us, but it is the only story, unique, wise, and hardly comparable to other. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to connect parts of Serena’s life to some of Venus’s life: two sisters who have marked the history of the sport despite the racism and prejudices, which for years accompanied them at every match played.


An African American woman who speaks français

Serena Willams was born in Siginaw, Michigan, in 1981: she is the youngest of five sisters, three half-sisters and one, Venus, from the same parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Her mother was from the beginning one of the greatest motivations in Serena’s life, right along with her father Richard. The family soon moved to Compton, Los Angeles, where both parents personally coached both Serena and Venus. When the youngest sister was nine years old, the family moved again, this time to Florida where Serena began, along with Venus, to attend a tennis academy. This experience did not last long, and in fact, the Williams were special because thanks to the teachings of their father Richard and the coaching of their mom Price had an different education than their "colleagues". This alternative education was also made of entertainment and family ties, typical of the black culture.


Although Serena was born in the United States she has always been interested and linked to its origins in Africa, thanks to the advice of her grandmother. She went back, and found out where she was coming from: this has been the secret to understand who she wanted to be and what goals she wanted to achieve. The Fader has dedicated her the cover of the October / November 2016 where Serena showed once again her human side and her ability to be determined and to always be herself. "My parents have always told me to be the best you can you have to know your story. History can create a lot of knowledge, and we have always wanted to know our origins". 

Anyone who knows a bit about the American culture knows that hardly any American speaks another language besides English. Serena Williams speaks French fairly well, despite she claims that Venus is much more fluent than her. Having chosen a few years ago, Patrick Mouratouglu as her coach has definitely helped Serena, but she has always made a personal issue, tied to her homeland, where the main language is French.


She was born a winner

 We could hypothetically divide Serena’s successes following her change of sponsor, from Puma to Nike, which was not a trivial element at all. Puma starts sponsoring Serena Williams in 1998: a year later, when she turns seventeen she won her first US Open in singles defeating Martina Hingis.

It would be impossible to recount all the successes achieved by Serena Williams during her career: winning the Australian Open in 2017, she reached 23 Slams for 72 WTA titles in total. She also won the Olympic gold medal in London 2012 in singles, and also in double in addition to having already won two, she wpm three Olympic gold medals in one year.

She won her first title in Melbourne in singles in 2003, again against her sister Venus: needless to say it was a struggle. With this win she won four consecutive Grand Slams, unfortunately not in the same year. For this reason seeing the uniqueness of Serena, the term "Serena Slam” was coined, with which the four consecutive Grand Slam successes were indicated. During her career she will have a rough time twice, between 2002 and 2003 and between 2014 and 2015, this last one when she lost the resounding semi-final at the US Open against Roberta Vinci and a year that had started gloriously turned into nightmare. This lasted until the 2016 Wimbledon final she won with anger.


In 2005, apart from changing her look she also changed sponsor definitely. She was part of Nike’s success after signing a lucrative contract. She won again the Australian Open by defeating her compatriot and rival Lindsay Davenport. At 24, Serena Williams had already won seven Grand Slam singles and six doubles with her sister: something incredible when you consider the story of Serena and her father Richard as her coach and given also the loss of her older sister only a year before.

 Different problems and accidents are present in the career of every athlete, but Serena was getting stronger and she was also able to recover and regain the ATP tournaments at every opportunity. It was the resounding episode of Indian Wells in 2001 when both sisters had to play against each other in the semi-final: Venus had an injury in the previous match and she could not play the match against her sister. Serena went straight to final against Clijsters: on that occasion the audience whistled and shouted to Williams and her family with racist insults, accusing them of deliberately rigged the match between the sisters, and that will remain forever in the memory of that day. For the record, Serena won the final. Unfortunately, this was just one of many episodes that have accompanied Serena during her career: along the years apart from racial insults, she has also received sexist allegations of all kinds enduring who did not want to see her winning. Nevertheless, Serena Williams has always managed to move forward becoming a role model for many African-Americans and not, who continue to live unequal conditions in the world.


Be always yourself


The thing that has marked Serena’s entire career has been her ability to believe in herself, at every opportunity. Her love for tennis - and that of her sister’s - have inspired and affected the lives of many people who have found something to believe in. Women's tennis has seen the triumph of black players after half a century, since the last one was Althea Gibson in 1958, changing the history and culture of sport. After all, Serena has always known that pressure is a privilege for few people, because not many are able to bear it.


Despite different trips throughout the year, even Serena Williams manages to have some time for leisure: she has launched her own fashion line and she also likes painting in her spare time. As shown in the documentary "Serena Williams: the tennis queen", painting helps her relax and relieve the daily stress. At the same time, she loves dancing and she is a good friend of Drake’s and Beyonce’s: with the last one she shoot the Lemonade video in which she shows all her skills outside the tennis court.

On the other hand, her father Richard wrote a book titled "Black & White: The Way I See It" where he has explained what both sisters had to face in order to reach the tennis summit. In one passage the father tells the story when he used to recruit white young people outside schools to take them to see the sisters training, and pay them for insulting both sisters with the worst possible insults - racial and not. Thanks to this practice Serena was able to confront and overcome what many use to defend themselves, insults. The maturity acquired over the years has done nothing but forge a unique character.


Talking about uniqueness, despite the fame, Serena Williams is one of the few that really appreciates her privacy: last month she has silenced gossips by publishing a photo in which she announces her marriage with the Reddit co-founder and showing how her life is taking an important direction. She has become a global icon, despite being a black tennis player, a sport which has been always reserved for white people. This fact bothered many, but it also gave hope to many other. At 35, she definitely feels a model and an inspiration, as evidenced by her security when facing the press. During the last Wimbledon competition, she was asked if she was one of the greatest female athletes of all time. The answer was perfect: "I prefer the word 'one of the greatest athletes of all time'" silencing those who have always valued less her achievements for being a woman. In 2015, Sports Illustrated named her Athlete of the Year, an award meant for just a few.

 Serena Williams is unlikely to retire any time soon- and we are happy, very happy- even though she is missing very little to equal Margaret Court with 24 Grand Slams, which is likely to happen this season, which began with a victory.

Serena is fairly compared to athletes who have made history such as Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali, both with the ability to stand up to every defeat. Not surprisingly, Serena Williams’ favorite poem is "Still I Rise" written by Maya Angelou that talks about the ability African-Americans have to stand up and to never give up in front of the social differences. The same way it has happened with Serena Williams’ story. 


“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”