At 35, Serena Williams is still a dominating force in tennis. She was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year and held on to her No.1 world ranking for 187 weeks.
Williams is well aware that she is aging, and soon her record shattering career will come to an end. So, she is taking stock of the social and racial landscape around her.
One of the conclusions she has come to is that if she were a man, she would have been considered the greatest a long ago.
During an interview with rapper and ex-boyfriend Common on ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” Williams said, “I think being a woman is just a whole new set of problems from society that you have to deal with, as well as being black, so it’s a lot to deal with — and especially lately. I’ve been able to speak up for women’s rights because I think that gets lost in color, or gets lost in cultures.”
She added: “Women make up so much of this world, and, yeah, if I were a man, I would have 100 percent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago.”
Where male athletes can discuss their views on political and social topics, Williams feels that she is held to a different standard, and in a sport primarily dominated by white people, it’s more difficult for her to speak her mind, so to speak.
That, however, hasn’t stopped her.
“It’s very challenging because sometimes when things are blatantly wrong and blatantly unfair and blatantly racist or sexist, I just have to go and put on a brave smile and not let anyone know how I feel on the inside so they don’t get that satisfaction even though on the inside I would be dying,” she said.
Williams spoke out earlier this year after Philando Castile was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer. The tennis great shared her fear for her nephew as he drove her to meetings.
“I remembered that horrible video of the woman in the car when a cop shot her boyfriend,” Williams said. “All of this went through my mind in a matter of seconds. I even regretted not driving myself. I would never forgive myself if something happened to my nephew. He’s so innocent. So were all the others.
… Why did I have to think about this in 2016? Have we not gone through enough, opened so many doors, impacted billions of lives? But I realized we must stride on — for it’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go.”
About her feelings on being the best tennis player, Williams says, “I shouldn’t have to apologize for saying and believing that I could be the best.
“We took the globe and shook it, me and Venus, because we came from Compton [Calif.]. We came from nothing and in tennis you kind of have to have something. We came and we conquered.”