Serena, Queen of the Court
By : Bret Love
At just 29 years old, Serena Williams is inarguably among the greatest players in Women's Tennis Association history, with five World No. 1 rankings and eight Wimbledon Championships (four in singles, four in doubles with sister Venus) under her belt. She has a killer serve, a career Grand Slam record of 199 wins (with just 30 losses), and is currently ranked sixth on the all-time tennis champions list.
As impressive as these accomplishments are, they're even more amazing when you consider how busy Serena stays off the court. She's currently juggling her own lines of fashion and accessories, overseeing the Serena Williams Secondary School she founded in Kenya, co-creating a reality TV show for herself, developing her own nail care collection and recently became a part owner of the Miami Dolphins.
We recently caught up with Williams for a lengthy chat about the commitment it takes to become a champion, her close relationship with Venus and how she envisions her life after tennis.
You've accomplished an amazing amount considering you're not even 30. When you were a little girl growing up in Compton, did you ever imagine this future for yourself?
When I was young I always dreamed of playing tennis and winning tournaments, but I never dreamed about all of the extra stuff that came along with it. I knew I wanted to win Grand Slams and be the best I could be, but when I was that age I didn't really think about any of the specific upsides or downsides of it.
You moved to West Palm Beach as a child. How did your family's life there compare to life in Compton?
Here it's obviously more calm and country, whereas Compton was definitely the big city. There were more cars and more people, and the environment and demographics were very different. Life in West Palm Beach was like 100 mph slower, so it was a huge change for my family and I to get used to. But now I can't imagine living anywhere else.
What type of sacrifice did it take for you to become as good as you are now?
It takes a lot of commitment. Nowadays, I feel like a lot of people really want that success for themselves or for their kids, but they have to realize that I didn't become who I became overnight. It takes years of waking up really early and training for 10 hours a day. It's a lot of training and mental work. When we're done on the court, we do a lot of things off the court as well. I think it's important to have a full dedication to it.
Were there things you gave up as a child or teenager that you wished at the time you could've had?
In order to gain something, you have to give up something. We gave up friends. We went to school, obviously—my dad really stressed education—but we gave up pretty much everything else. I never went to my graduation, but at the same time I was at the French Open. I had the chance to travel the world. So, looking back, at the time it was hard—when other kids play and you want to go play instead of hitting balls. But you realize, as you get older, thank God I wasn't playing!
How does your relationship with Venus feed you, both as a player and as a sister?
I was just thinking about that today, how I miss playing doubles with her. It's fun and we enjoy ourselves, but when the time comes for us to get serious, we can definitely do that as well. I think it's easier for me to lose to her than other players, not that I like to lose at all. Either one is very difficult. It's not as difficult anymore, because a loss is what it is and there's always next time… hopefully.
Is there one accomplishment of which you're the proudest?
I think when I went to Africa and opened two schools, one in 2008 and one this year . We opened schools for kids who didn't have an opportunity, didn't have money, didn't have a chance at an education, and we provided facilities, teachers and computers. That was definitely the best thing I've done through my career, to help these kids that have really never had that opportunity and probably would not have gone to school.
You've done so well and achieved all this wealth, yet you've chosen to remain in South Florida. What is it about that area that appeals to you?
Florida is so warm, I love it, love it, love it! Miami is my favorite city, and it's so amazing. The area is beautiful.
What compelled you and your sister to buy into the Miami Dolphins?
Being from South Florida, I thought it was a no-brainer. Besides being fans, it's a big business, and becoming the owner of a football team is actually my lifetime goal. I'm crazy for football! We always went to the games anyway, so we thought that we would love to keep growing our investment into the team.
What do you enjoy doing when you're home?
My favorite thing to do is to go to Miami. I love just hanging out at the beach, relaxing, eating, laughing and laying down napping. Miami also has a great nightlife from what I understand, and one of these days I'm going to try it. (Laughs) I don't get to go out too much.
How do you balance all your interests, and what kind of life do you envision for yourself once you retire from the sport?
I don't know how I balance it! (Laughs) It's a question I ask myself all the time. As for what happens after the sport, I don't know. I live for the moment, and I don't think about it too much. I just try to do the best I can and live for this day, because nothing is guaranteed. But I would love to eventually build a life for myself outside of tennis.
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