New Distances: Serena Williams
Playing the last point. Hoisting the trophy. Winning championships. Serena Williams is addicted to all of it. Serena didn't become the legend she is today by letting the naysayers get into her head. She recently sat down with us to talk about the mindset of a champion and what that means for her future.
Since turning pro at the age of 14, Serena Williams has always been tagged as "too" everything: too black, too committed to activism, too young or old, too tough or sexy. But because of her resilience and belief in herself, she had the perspective to understand that for every negative comment, there's a million positive ones. She may have a stinging forehand, but Serena's mental toughness is why she's so effective on the court, at home and in life. She is one of the fiercest competitors of her generation, and that unparalleled hunger for greatness has propelled her to a record 23 Grand Slam victories, a successful businesswoman and thriving mother.
With the rest of her legacy still to be written, Serena talked to us about how she looks to uplift the next generation.
How much do you attribute your self-belief to your upbringing, your family and those formative years in your life?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Self-belief is everything. I attribute my self-belief to pretty much everything I have. There were moments where I was the only one that believed in me. And although it's great to have other people believe in you, it's best to have self-belief in yourself.
What was it about the game that you fell in love with and what would you say to the next generation that may not have found their passion yet or are questioning whether to go forwards?
SERENA: Honestly, the thing that I fell in love with about tennis is winning. I love to win. I love championships. I love to hold up trophies, and that's really weird and really strange, but it's addicting. Whenever I win something, I'm just like, what's next? Let's take the next one. I don't know if that's a great answer, but I do know that's me. That's my passion and my dedication to work harder because I know what it feels like to play that final point and to have that thrill of overcoming everything and all the work that I've done for so long and reaping the benefit of it.
"I want to prove the bar can always be raised higher".
– Serena Williams
How do you manage and balance being ambitious, yet calm, unapologetic, yet compassionate, fearless, yet strategic, in all facets of your life, as a tennis player, a mother and a businesswoman?
SERENA: Balance is super key. Fierce, powerful and strong, yet sensitive, balance is something that I'm actually still working on. Overall, the way I find the best balance is just by being authentic and just being me and just being Serena. I'm not going to be anything different in front of a camera or behind a camera. I'm always going to be me.
Reflecting on a 15-year-old Serena Williams, understanding every hurdle she will ever have to overcome. What advice would you give her?
SERENA: Looking back at a 15-year-old Serena? Oh my gosh. The only advice I would say is to enjoy every moment because you're a teenager for such a short period of your life and it's fun. And that's the only thing I would say. I think that what I've gone through made me who I am and made me stronger, but I would just say enjoy every second of your life.
Since the very beginning to when you turned pro and beyond, you seem to have overcome every hurdle from every angle. Being a black woman in a predominantly white sport, to the injuries, personal hardships and even starting off as Venus's younger sister. How have you stayed the course and been resilient along the whole journey?
SERENA: I think the only reason I've been able to stay the course is because I love what I do, even though some days are very difficult and some moments are difficult. I think ultimately there's no way that I would be who I am or would have anything that I have unless I truly enjoyed my job. I enjoy doing what I do best. And that's playing tennis.
"I think the most lasting impression that I would like to impress not only on Olympia, but the next generation is just humility. I think that is so underrated".
– Serena Williams
What excites you most about what's to come?
SERENA: Oh my gosh! What excites me most about what's to come? I don't know. Fashion things, Serena Williams Design Crew, that's super exciting for me. Really just taking this to a whole new level in the brand and with Nike—that has never been done. Just making something so fresh and so different and so aspirational and yet so comfortable and so wearable and so usable. That's such a broad question, but that's what I'm really looking forward to.
The Serena Williams Design Crew is a collective of dreamers, innovators and creators. Each year, a group of apprentices partner with Serena and Nike—with the aim to develop and inspire the next generation of talent. The result? Game-changing work and a brighter future for design.