Serena Williams, an imprint far beyond the world of tennis

Christian Hartmann / Reuters At Roland-Garros, Serena Williams in a superheroine outfit useful for her health.

Christian Hartmann / Reuters

At Roland-Garros, Serena Williams in a superheroine outfit useful for her health.

SPORT – “There is a time in life when you have to decide to take a new route. » Serena Williams has arrived at this crossroads, the one where she will not continue her tennis career straight, but where she will fork into her second life, that of a retiree from high-level sport. This Monday, August 29, the one who is one of the greatest tennis players begins the US Open which could be her last tournament. In the event of a defeat against Danka Kovinic, she could even put away her rackets next night.

If this is a turning point in the huge career of the 40-year-old American, legend Serena Williams will not stop here, now. The sportswoman has become, well beyond the world of tennis, an icon, whose influence of speeches and positions is not about to stop.

Feminist and anti-racist icon

Serena Williams has not only won 23 Grand Slam titles (including three Roland-Garros), her notoriety also comes from the committed positions on social issues that she has held throughout her career.

Starting with women’s rights. In 2016, she published a open letter in destination to ” all the amazing women striving for excellence », inviting them to « pursue their dreams with unwavering resilience ». « Women have to break down many barriers on their way to success “, she wrote.

In 2017, she responded firmly to the controversial words of American legend John McEnroe who declared: ” If she played on the men’s circuit, she would be around the 700th place in the world ». “Dear John, I adore and respect you, but please, please leave me alone with your statements that are not backed up by facts.she replied on Twitter. I’ve never played against a rated player (from the men’s circuit) and I don’t have the time. »

The same year, she positioned herself on the subject of equal pay, emphasizing the gap between what black women and white women earned in equal positions.

This won’t be the only time Serena Williams has spoken out against the treatment of black women. In 2018, she tackles the much higher risks for the latter to die in childbirth than white women.

Beyond defending black women, the tennis legend has positioned herself as soon as she could to fight against racism. In 2001, Serena Williams decided to boycott the Indian Wells tournament for 14 years, a tournament during which she declared herself the victim of racist insults from part of the public.

In 2016, she became involved in the “Black Lives Matter” movement. On Facebook, she tells an anecdote. While her nephew was driving her to one of his meetings, she saw a policeman. ” I quickly checked to see if he was respecting the speed limit. Then I remembered this horrible video of a woman confronting a police officer pulling her boyfriend into the car. This all went through my head in seconds. She then wonders: Why do I still have to think about it in 2016? I realized that we have to take great strides, because this is not the path we have come but the path we have yet to go. “, she continues.

superhero body

Often the victim of “body shaming” since the start of her career, the quadruple Olympic champion has always spoken proudly of her body, but also of her mind. ” I love my body and I will never change anything about it (…) I am not asking you to appreciate it. Only to let me be me. Because I’m going to influence a girl who looks like me, and I want her to feel good about herself “, she launches in an interview on the cover of Self in 2016.

Returning to the criticism suffered for years and to a 2004 interview in which she declared her goal to be a size 36, she replies, for Harper’s Bazaar: ” I will never be a size 36! Why would I want to do this, and be this? I’m like that, and that’s my weapon and my strength. »

In 2018, she was also noted for wearing an outfit that has become cult, a black full suit adorned with a pink belt giving her the air of a superheroine. Except that on the court, women must play in skirts. And this initiative had not passed with the French Tennis Federation, forcing the champion to give up this outfit at Roland-Garros. ” You can take off the superhero costume, but you can never take away his superpowers “, retorted its equipment supplier, Nike.

Apprehension of motherhood

Serena Williams has also released a lot of talk about pregnancy and motherhood among top athletes.

“We’ve all been there. I work a lot, I train and I try to be the best athlete possible. However, it also means, although I have been with her every day of her life, that I am not as present as I would like to be.she had, for example, expressed, about her postpartum depression, in 2018. “Between staying at home and working, finding the right balance with the children is a real art. You (mothers) are the real heroes. I’m here to say that if you’re having a rough week or day, that’s okay, because so am I! There is always a tomorrow! »

More recently, at the beginning of August, the athlete returned to her relationship with motherhood and her career. At the dawn of her 41 years, Serena Williams is indeed thinking of having a second child, which she considers incompatible with her sports career. ” I absolutely do not want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet in tennis or two feet out “, she underlined for Vogue. Her recent track record as a high-level athlete then mingled with her difficulties as a mother: ” I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a Grand Slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I performed during postpartum depression. But I didn’t make it she regrets, while qualifying: “But I showed up 23 times (note in Grand Slam), and that’s good. In fact, it is extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis CV and building my family, I choose the second option. »

Role model

There would be a lot more to say about the events that have marked Serena Williams’ career since her first US Open final in 1997, at the age of 17. But everything we have just mentioned already makes it possible to understand how she is a real role model for little girls and an icon for athletes in general.

« I encourage young girls to strive for what they believe in and never give up pursuing their passions. “, she explained to Elleadding to being “touched” by the fact of being considered by some as a role model.

“She gave ideas, strength and courage to these black kids who turned on their TV and saw this woman who looks like them dominating her discipline, in a sport that has long been the prerogative of whites. Coco Gauff is the most recent example, but before her, Serena has influenced so many young tenniswomen over the last 25 years, I don’t think we realize it.”says journalist Alyssa Roenigk for 20 Minutes.

Eurosport has also asked several athletes, including Coco Gauff, a young 18-year-old tennis player, Roland-Garros finalist this year, to pay tribute to Serena Williams. And this is enough to grasp the importance of Serena Williams beyond her athletic performance: “ Before Serena arrived, there wasn’t really an icon that looked like me. She helped me not to feel different because growing up, the best player in the world was someone like me (…) She always keeps her head up. She always aims high. Sometimes, as a woman, as a black woman in this world, you can tend to think that you have to aim lower. Not her. Serena taught me that. »

See also on The HuffPost: Serena Williams’ words to Naomi Osaka after her withdrawal from Roland-Garros

Source: Le HuffPost : actualités et infos décalées en continu, en France et dans le monde by

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