Serena Williams ‘paved the way’ for mothers to keep playing tennis, says Martina Navratilova
Serena Williams’ words are being used as a rallying call for women who are struggling to play tennis, an argument that draws on her own experiences.
In a moving interview, the 24-time Grand Slam champion — who is currently ranked world No. 6 — tells the Guardian her story, of being inspired by her sister, a top tennis player and mother of three.
“I was a total failure as a player,” she says. “I’ve always been a little bit of a loner, a perfectionist and I was a little bit selfish.
“I was very competitive, I wanted to get the perfect serve, and I thought, I can work on my service, I can work on my game.
“But I started losing and then looking around, not being able to find another place outside of tennis — you know, I was so self-taught, I did everything by myself, by myself, for myself.
“I wasn’t finding what I wanted and I had nothing to go back to. And eventually I felt really stuck because I felt like I was trying to do everything on my own and I was trying to do everything perfectly, and I didn’t really enjoy it.
“So my approach to my life and to life in general, I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to play tennis and when I get older, I’m going to be a coach, I’m going to be a tennis agent, I’m going to be an agent, a tennis administrator, a tennis analyst, whatever it is that I do’.
“And then I had to start, you know, with the basics of the game, because I wasn’t as good as they thought I was good.
“To my knowledge of the game, I thought I was the best in the world. And then I lost to these players that were the best in the world. And then I went to the U.S. Open and had a good match and then I lost in the final to Venus Williams. So I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I guess I’ve come a long way in my career’.”
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.