Following her loss in the U.S. Open third round on Friday night, Serena Williams’ professional tennis career is officially over. However in her second act, Williams may leave marks on culture, business and politics as indelible as those she left on tennis.
Never the conformist, Williams is definitely her unique and authentic self on the tennis court, and off. There could be no bigger reason behind her enormous popularity (although her 23 Grand Slam titles may have something regarding it).
There might be no bigger reason behind her enormous popularity (although her 23 Grand Slam titles may have something regarding it).
Serena and older sister Venus Williams defied tennis convention as soon as they burst onto the professional scene, on the cusp of the 21st century. They designed their very own outfits, refused to kowtow to old-fashioned and prejudiced tropes and embodied strength, intelligence, beauty and femininity without needing to compromise their truth.
Rather than appearing stoic after hitting a breathtaking shot, Williams celebrates her greatness in full-throated, fist-pumping glory. And her worldwide legions of fans wouldnt own it any way, as evidenced by the 41-year-old star’s riveting, grueling, iconic match against Australian Ajla Tomljanovi.
It must be her last ever professional match. As she told Vogue magazine in August, she actually is evolving from tennis. But dont expect her nonconformist methods to change once she hangs up her racket.
And who in our midst will undoubtedly be surprised?
In 2000, when she was 18, Williams withdrew from the tournament in SC to get an NAACP boycott of the states Confederate flag. She’s done things her very own way since. Williams reaches the forefront of another sort of superstar athlete: multi-hyphenate stars who because of vast resources, ambition and talent no more retire. They just look for a new mountaintop.
The week prior to the 2022 U.S. Open, Williams appeared at the brand new York STOCK MARKET, not in athletic shoes however in stylish pumps, to ring the opening bell as CEO of Serena Ventures, her $111 million capital raising fund.
Williams company has recently committed to around 60 companies, THE BRAND NEW York Times reported, but she says she actually is particularly thinking about women and male companies of color, who’ve historically been underrepresented in the high-stakes world of capital raising investing. That money philosophy and investment savvy could influence other public figures to greatly help level the organization playing field.
Indeed, tennis ace Naomi Osaka, winner of four Grand Slam titles, has recently followed her idol and be a prominent investor herself.
Williams forays into fashion tend to be more established. From her childhood braids to her eye-catching dresses and that French Open catsuit Williams is definitely incredibly mixed up in creation of her (perennially Nike-branded) match looks. Regardless of the efforts of body-shaming internet trolls, Williams revels in her fuller-figured, athletic physique. The theory that beauty will come in all sizes and shapes is section of what motivates her fashion line, S by Serena, which she debuted at NY Fashion Week in 2020.
As a reigning GOAT (greatest ever), Williams is section of a rarefied club. Unlike many (but definitely not all) GOATs of decades past paging fellow Nike luminary JORDAN younger stars like Williams, LeBron James among others seem increasingly ready to speak out forcefully on politics without fretting about sponsorship sensitivities or fan blowback. She’s highlighted the cruel excesses of mass incarceration, homelessness, gun violence and pay inequality.
Williams 2018 HBO miniseries, Being Serena, gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how life as a Black female sports superstar intersects with racial animus. Williams also shared information on a pregnancy complicated by her history of blood clots and made unnecessarily stressful by dismissive responses from medical staff.
Daughter Olympia was created healthy and turned 5 on Sept. 1. But Williams experience resonated with many Black American women. Their maternal mortality rate is 2-3 times greater than that of white women, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After her first-round U.S. Open victory Monday night, Williams told reporters she intends to provide Olympia a sibling.
Williams has also partnered with Helping Hands Jamaica to create an elementary school on the Caribbean island and joined forces with Build Africa to create schools in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, one philanthropic effort among many.
Indeed, Williams seems to understand much better than most the major impact star athletes might have socially, culturally and politically.
When I interviewed Williams at the 2006 U.S. Open for a tennis book project, she explained she wished to star in a movie about Althea Gibson tennis first Black major champion in the 1950s. Williams impressed me with her understanding of Gibsons struggles, taught to her and Venus Williams by parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price.
Although Williams no more appears to have the acting bug, she and Venus Williams were executive producers of an Oscar-winning film about their father, King Richard. It wouldnt surprise me if Serena Williams as a producer provides underappreciated Gibson her due in an attribute film.
Actually, theres hardly any Williams could do in her post-tennis life to uplift and inspire others that could surprise me. Shes already done more in her 40 years than most superstars accomplish ever. Yet incredibly, minus the commitment and pressures of athletic competition, her most crucial contributions could be yet ahead.