Wednesday marks an extra special day in the tennis world as one of its living legends, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, turns 37 years old.
And though her dreams of adding 2018 to her Grand Slam tally were thwarted by a hater umpire (more on that later) we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to remind everyone exactly what makes her such a powerhouse both on and off the court.
Below are just five (of the many) reasons why Serena Williams is the Greatest. Of. All. Time.
Don’t fight us on this, the receipts speak for themselves.
1. Serena’s not scared to go against the grain
Earlier this month, the U.S. Tennis Association handed Williams a $17,000 fine for her pointed conversation with umpire Carlos Ramos in which informed him that she does not have to cheat to win and called him a “thief” for taking a point from her.
Williams’ conversation with the official, which included a drop-the-mic moment as she finished what she had to say and strutted away, occurred after her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was accused of helping her cheat and giving her hand signals from the sidelines.
Men in tennis have acted out much more egregiously during matches without being fined, but its an unspoken rule that women are expected to behave more demurely; a double standard that Williams is sick of and refusing to abide by any longer.
For those who didn’t watch the now notorious match, below is a quick and complete run down of what happened that day, and how she repeatedly stood up for herself with the whole world watching.
2. Serena fiercely advocates for women
Despite overwhelming support from fans, Williams’ claims of sexism after her U.S. Open final defeat by Naomi Osaka have divided opinions on the women’s WTA Tour.
World No 1 Simona Halep and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova claim they see no difference in the way male umpires treat players, while Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki believes her long-time friend “has a point.”
The beauty of her advocacy is she speaks up for all women – even the ones who may not be as predisposed to do the same for her in return.
Serena is right. I was there. And worse, he was baiting her. https://t.co/CinW6AJJNo
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 8, 2018
In addition to shedding light on double standards that adversely affect female athletes, another women’s issue that Williams has championed as of late is equal pay.
This spring, Williams, along with her sister Venus officially joined the push for equal pay across all types of jobs that the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) is championing.
“They’ve been through a lot themselves, so they totally understand what’s going on,” said King. “The two of them have transcended sports. The BJKLI is not about sports. It’s about every industry. To try to get equal pay for equal work, and that means across the board, from CEOs down to entry level.”
3. Serena is comfortable in her skin
Williams is very often attacked for her afrocentric features and strong build, yet she’s not letting the sexist, racist, and deeply hurtful words of her critics stop her from loving herself, and her body, unapologetically.
This year, in preparation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Williams has teamed up with the I Touch Myself Project, which was launched in partnership with bra manufacturer Berlei in 2014 shortly after Chrissy Amphlett, the lead singer of Divinyls, died from breast cancer.
According to CNBC, Amphlett wanted the song to act as a reminder for women to check their breasts. On Sunday, a bare naked Williams released a nine-second teaser video singing along to one of the more memorable lines from the song: “I love myself, I want you to love me.”
Check out the clip below. We can’t wait to see the rest!
4. Serena’s friendships are sacred
Powerful women are often pitted against each other, and portrayed as catty, but one look at Serena’s roster of gal pals quickly dispels that myth and shows that true champions know how give applause as much as receive it.
Be it twerking in her girlfriend Beyonce’s music video, showing up to milestone celebrations for besties like Kim Kardashian and Ciara or even flying across the pond to attend her close buddy Meghan Markle’s wedding, Serena always makes time to support the women in her personal life and the love seems to go both ways.
Williams and the now Duchess of Sussex grew up only 30 miles apart in the greater Los Angeles area, but it wasn’t until her third year on the legal drama Suits, that Markle finally crossed paths with the tennis star.
“We hit it off immediately,” Markle wrote on her old lifestyle website The Tig, “taking pictures, laughing through the flag football game we were both playing in, and chatting not about tennis or acting, but about all the good old fashioned girly stuff.”
And now it’s been reported that the Duchess has been leaning on Serena and texting her for support since moving to the U.K to live with her husband Harry, particularly during Markle’s dramas with her father and estranged family members.
“We were actually just texting each other this morning,” Williams revealed to The Project‘s Lisa Wilkinson Sunday when asked if they traded tips on handling the pressures of fame. “We have known each other for a long time, but we really, kind of, are relying on each other a lot recently.”
Check out the full interview below.
5. Serena is redefining what motherhood looks like
Williams life has undoubtedly changed since she started juggling the duties of being a world class 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.”
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.
Williams story has shed light on the issue of childbirth mortality rates – and issue that disproportionately affect black women more than their white counterparts – and also inspired other mothers to trust their instincts and speak up when something feels wrong be it physically or mentally.
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Kids humble us. The other day on a flight home Olympia had so much energy and insisted on running up and down the aisle. When I finally got her to calm down and sit still, she threw up all over me and in the aisle. #ThisMama wants to remind all mothers the importance of supporting one another through the highs, lows, laughs and tears. _ Share your own stories of motherhood with hashtag #ThisMama. I’d love to hear them!
Happy birthday Queen!