“I’M HAPPY TO GO THROUGH THINGS SO OTHER WOMEN DON’T HAVE TO”
Serena Williams on playing sister Venus in the UAE, raising daughter Alexis and tackling sexism Welcome to the UAE. What do you enjoy about playing out here?
I love the chance to inspire women to play tennis in the UAE. I am sure there is talent here and being able to let them know they can play just as good and probably better than me is a joy.
How does it feel when you’re playing against your sister Venus? When has it been the most difficult?
Gosh, there have been so many [difficult matches] but I would say any Wimbledon final [is the most challenging]. In tournaments we always play as competitors but in different settings we do have a bit of fun. However, with this being so close to the Australian Open I know that we will both want to use our opportunity at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi [Venus beat Serena for the first time in nearly four years] to be able to win this and truly get ready for the Open. You’re rightly outspoken about sexism within the sport... Every sport and career path has its challenges. Sexism has been something really prominent in sports, and I am happy to have to go through things that other women will not have to go through in the future. [But] tennis is one of the few sports that has agreed to pay equal prize money at the main events (Grand Slams). There are still many more doors to be opened and I am happy to be there right at the front of the line helping others open them.
You’re a mum now to a little girl. How has that changed you as a person, or even as a player?
As a person I can see that I am more open and I listen more. I really want to protect everyone and make a difference more than ever before. Tennis still has the same meaning. I just want to go out there and be the best, but now not just for me but for my daughter as well. Can you see little Alexis Olympia having a career within tennis? I do not see my daughter as a tennis player but I have learned to never say never! For me it is important to have my daughter choose her own career path. I would support her and, of course, if she chose to play sports I would be super happy. I think showing her how sports can help boost confidence and teach discipline, will naturally steer her towards sport even if she only wants to play it recreationally.
You’ve already come so far in your career and broken countless records. How do you stay motivated? What’s your next goal?
There is always a goal. It is not about setting goals to beat it’s just for me about doing something that I completely love. And that is what keeps me motivated. [The next step is] A fashion empire, of course. I love building brands and creating something that people can truly enjoy from the quality to the service.
Serena Williams’ fashion collection can be found at serenawilliams.com
“I DO NOT SEE MY DAUGHTER AS A TENNIS PLAYER, BUT I’VE LEARNED TO NEVER SAY NEVER”