Serena Williams is the on the cover of Harper Bazaar‘s August Edition and in it, she talks about her journey since she first won her first Grand Slam at the age of 17.
“Since that fateful victory in 1999, I’ve won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 39 Grand Slam titles in all, and countless gold medals. I have been asked what keeps me motivated to continue playing tennis. To me, the answer is simple: I love the sport. When I’m giving speeches I always say how important it is to love what you do. If you don’t, then find something that speaks to you. Follow your passion.”
She talked about being penalized, just when she was looking forward to winning the 24th Grand Slam singles at the final of the US Open.
“How can you take a game away from me in the final of a Grand Slam? Really, how can you take a game away from anyone at any stage of any tournament? I turn over, exhausted from lack of sleep, thoughts still spinning in my head. Why can’t I express my frustrations like everyone else? If I were a man, would I be in this situation? What makes me so different? Is it because I’m a woman?
I’m not asking to avoid being penalized. I am asking to be treated the same way as everyone else. Sadly, that’s simply not the world we currently live in.”
I started to think again, “What could I have done better? Was I wrong to stand up? Why is it that when women get passionate, they’re labeled emotional, crazy, and irrational, but when men do they’re seen as passionate and strong?”
After days of being restless and angry, Serena not only saw a therapist, she also wrote a letter to Naomi Osaka:
“Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams. As I said on the court, I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena.”
“When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face. ‘People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,’ she said graciously. ‘No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.'”
Talking about her challenges, Serena said “as a teenager, I was booed by an entire stadium (I took the high road and even thanked those who didn’t want to see me win). I’ve been called every name in the book. I’ve been shamed because of my body shape. I’ve been paid unequally because of my sex. I’ve been penalized a game in the final of a major because I expressed my opinion or grunted too loudly. I’ve been blatantly cheated against to the point where the Hawk-Eye rules were introduced so that something like that would not happen again. And these are only the things that are seen by the public. In short, it’s never been easy. But then I think of the next girl who is going to come along who looks like me, and I hope, “Maybe, just maybe, my voice will help her.”
But Serena is not stopping anytime soon, especially now that she has a daughter.
“Ultimately, my daughter is the reason I use my voice, the reason I picked up a racket again. Love breathes life and newfound perspective into people. It’s not about quitting when someone presents a challenge; it’s about getting up when you are down, dusting yourself off and asking, “Is that the best you got?” Because I have God with me, and I can take whatever comes my way.”
Read Serena’s full interview here.