How Serena Williams rewrote the playbook for female athletes juggling motherhood and sport
As the mother of three children, Serena Williams was no stranger to the pressures, setbacks and criticism of her profession—but that changed when her young daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, was born. Since then, she has been the undisputed Queen of Tennis, winning five Grand Slam tournaments and a record-breaking 11 Grand Slam singles titles and counting.
Her story is as extraordinary as the title of her memoir, which chronicles her journey to the top: the pressures of her fame, the frustrations of the game and her own personal demons.
In the book she calls her toughest critics, her family and herself, her family and herself. She writes at length about these relationships and the way she dealt with them—or didn’t. “I am not a perfect person,” she says. “It’s what you choose to make of yourself. No one is perfect.”
Born and raised in a private school in Atlanta, she was a self-described introverted figure with a “mildly eccentric” artistic personality who gravitated to the spotlight. She began playing tennis at the age of 7 and went on to win her first junior singles title at 14.
Her talent was evident from a young age, but she struggled with her weight, which she struggled with throughout her life. She was bullied for her weight and her confidence was often questioned, but as she matured she became more confident in the stands.
She was forced to give up her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, but her focus and determination took her to the top of the game.
She began her professional career in 2004 by first winning the women’s doubles title with her partner Caroline Wozniacki at the age of 16. Soon after, she won her first singles title at 17 and began making a name for herself on the tour. “I never really knew what I was doing,” she says of her early years on the circuit.
Williams’ professional life was plagued by a combination of injury and personal problems; two back surgeries in 2005 and 2006 were followed by a hip-related injury. After that, she began playing on the ITF circuit, where she was able to focus on her game without the distraction of her pregnancy, and worked on her fitness. It wasn