She played her first professional tennis match aged just 14, and was ranked amongst the top twenty female tennis players in the world by the age of 17. By 21, she had won her first Wimbledon title, defeating her older sister Venus in the process, and was ranked as the No. 1 female tennis player in the world. She has won four Olympic gold medals over the course of her career, most recently at London 2012. At the age of 32, she became the oldest women’s tennis world No. 1 in history. She remains the only player in tennis history to have won all four major Grand Slam titles whilst aged over 30. She even won the 2017 Australian Open whilst eight weeks pregnant.
With this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking Williams’s rise to the top was an easy, straight-forward journey. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, her career has been riddled with injuries, several of which were severe enough to force her to stop playing tennis professionally for months at a time. After her pregnancy, side-affects meant she was bedridden for two months, and unable to train properly for several subsequent months. She also suffered from severe post-partum depression, having also suffered prior bouts of depression. Earlier in her career, her mental health had been affected by racist tennis fans’ abuse of her family.
Yet, despite all of these obstacles, Williams will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the sporting greats of her generation. She is phenomenal on the court, and an inspiration off it, too. It is rare to see a woman of African-American heritage dominate a sport to the extent that Serena has impacted on the world of tennis. Off the court, she has encouraged her fans to champion various social causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. Her philanthropic work has included funding the creation of a girls’ school in Kenya, and working with charities that support victims of domestic abuse.
To me, Williams is the perfect ambassador for the This Girl Can movement, which aims to encourage the belief that all young women can engage in, and enjoy sport. She has faced obstacles in every single area of her career, from racist abuse, to catastrophic injuries… and yet, she just keeps winning, both personally and professionally.