Just in case you were worried, Serena Williams isn’t planning to retire any time soon and she doesn’t care who knows it.
Williams looks powerful and determined on the cover of Time Magazine and gives a no-holds-barred interview about how life has changed since she started juggling the duties of being a 23-time Grand Slam champion, wife, sister and mother.
“I still have to learn a balance of being there for her, and being there for me,” she confesses about her overwhelming attachment to her healthy baby girl. “I’m working on it. I never understood women before, when they put themselves in second or third place. And it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to do.”
After a 14-month absence, her return to tennis has been complicated, emotional, and full of surprising setbacks; like when she came within just one match of becoming the first mother to win Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong in 1980.
Tthose adversities haven’t deterred her from her quest to make history.
“I’m not done yet, simple,” she boldly declares in the publication. “My story doesn’t end here.”
Below, are the five reasons why Serena Williams is still and always be the G.O.A.T.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) August 16, 2018
1. She really could’ve died during childbirth
Earlier this year the 36-year-old penned a powerful essay for CNN highlighting the plight of women not as privileged as herself and demanding global changes be made in maternal healthcare. Some readers, however, may not have realized that Williams didn’t just have a minor health scare, she really could have died.
Last September, when she gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia via an emergency C-section, Williams immediately sensed something was wrong well before her doctors did. After the birth, she began to feel out of breath and because she’d suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2011, she suspected she was experiencing another one.
The doctors weren’t so sure, but she demanded a CT scan for her lungs, which ultimately led to her saving her own life.
“If she doesn’t understand her body as well as she does, and the doctor doesn’t listen to her, I don’t necessarily think we’re sitting here,” her agent, Jill Smoller gravely told TIME.
The scan found blood clots and coughing from the embolism has caused her C-section wound to pop. In surgery her doctors also found a large hematoma in her abdomen. This was followed by five surgeries and a few tough months of recovery that followed.
“It’s a lot to change gears from being really happy and thrilled about bringing this life into the world to having to kiss your wife goodbye and praying she’ll be O.K.,” said her husband, tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian.
2. The U.S. Open is re-examining its rules because of her
In tennis it is a long established rule that women coming back from maternity leave should lose their seeds in a tournament draw.
Williams, who has been increasingly vocal about gender discrimination in the workplace, was the top-ranked player in the world before she had Olympia. It’s believed that because of her clout, she did not receive a seed penalty at the French Open, but other female players without her star power have been dissuaded from having children because of the way the sport treats returning mothers.
“It would be nice to recognize that women shouldn’t be treated differently because they take time to bring life into this world,” Williams says.
And her critiques have led the U.S. Open to pledge that it will incorporate maternity decisions into its seeding process moving forward.
3. She found out her sister’s murderer was paroled right before her defeat
The most shocking part of the cover story is when Williams reveals she found out her sister’s murderer was paroled the night before the the worst loss of her professional career – a stunning 6-1, 6-0 defeat to Jo Konta in San Jose.
She pulled out her phone and was scrolling through social media 10 minutes before the start of a July 31 match, when she read on Instagram that Robert Edward Maxfield, the man convicted of killing her sister, Yetunde Price in 2003, had been released on parole earlier in the year.
“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” the tennis champ explained.
After her loss she originally cited that she was “accepting some tough personal stuff,” but now she’s ready to talk about the real toll that news took on her.
“No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behavior,” Williams said of Maxfield’s new found freedom. “It’s unfair that she’ll never have an opportunity to hug me.”
Her sister also had three children when she died, aged 11, 9 and 5 years old. And knowing they’ll live the rest of their lives without their mother, makes the pain that much greater.
“It was hard because all I think about is her kids, and what they mean to me. And how much I love them.”
While she’s not there yet, when it comes to her sister’s death Williams hopes to ultimately get to a place of forgiveness.
“I would like to practice what I preach, and teach Olympia that as well. I want to forgive. I have to get there. I’ll be there.”
4. Believe it or not, she doesn’t lift weights
In the midst of all the vulnerable moments included in the TIME profile, there is one fun fact that shows just how destined Williams was to be a star athlete, down to her genetics.
This summer she publicly speculated that she was being unfairly targeted by tennis officials when it comes to drug testing. Since then its been confirmed that the United States Anti-Doping Agency has tested Serena five times in 2018, according to its records. Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens, who won the U.S. Open a year ago, has been tested once.
Williams thinks it’s because some people can’t believe her muscular physique is a byproduct of genetics and the Almighty.
“Look at me,” she laughs. “I was born this way. They’re like, ‘Oh, she can’t be that great, she must be doing something.’ I don’t even lift weights. It’s all God, you know. But whatever.”
5. Billie Jean King believes she could be president some day
Serena Williams has a legion of die hard fans, amongst them is tennis legend Billie Jean King, who opened the doors for so many women tennis stars and other women athletes. King thinks the working mom can do just about anything she sets her mind to.
“I really hope she gets to 25,” said the pioneering Grand Slam singles champion, alluding to how with 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Williams is only two wins short of breaking Margaret Court’s all-time record.
King also thinks we shouldn’t underestimate how much fire she still has in her belly.
“It’s in everything she’s telling the world,” she says. “She gets this look, then she puts that leg up and she gets that fist going. I love it when she gets like that.” King even thinks Serena could be President one day.
Williams laughs off that suggestion, but who knows what the future holds. The White House could do worse.