Prodigy. Rising star. Phenom. Living legend. Mother. And now simply, being Serena.
Little more than one year after Serena Williams shocked the world by announcing her pregnancy on Snapchat, the mystique around Williams’ comeback to the WTA Tour is becoming more clear. This past week, Christopher Clarey of the New York Times released an illuminating interview with Serena Williams in advance of her upcoming five-part HBO docuseries, “Being Serena.”
What started as a desire to carry on a Richard Williams family tradition of videography of Venus and Serena’s childhood has — luckily for fans of tennis — turned into an unabashed look at one of tennis’ stars. Serena told Clarey that her docuseries, beginning May 2 at 10 p.m. ET, will cover her new marriage, the birth of her first child Alexis Olympia, and continue to follow her recovery from life-threatening postpartum complications.
Motherhood is where I currently find Serena most fascinating. The last few months have shown us that she can still play tennis at a high level, but even pregnancy is still a formidable foe for Serena Williams. After her loss to Naomi Osaka in Miami, Williams focused on her physical fitness and is up to “75 percent of her level when she won the 2017 Australian Open.” Of the current generation, Kim Clijsters is the most famous example of motherhood and tennis. She won the 2009 U.S. Open in her third tournament of her “second career” after a premature retirement in 2007. Clijsters was the first mother to win a major since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her final major at Wimbledon in 1980, more proof that Serena is intent on climbing the highest mountains left in her sport.
More importantly, “Being Serena” allows Serena to use her voice to effect change. Williams surprisingly revealed that she is still breastfeeding her seven-month-old child. It may seem like a simple way to feed a child, but breastfeeding can be very stressful for new mothers as Serena found out when she caught a breast infection while attempting to wean between Indian Wells and Miami. Her struggles with breastfeeding and child birth, combined with her openness in sharing her experiences, magnify her as a great role model for many women in an American culture that often doesn’t value breastfeeding as the best nutritional outlet for infants, or create access to adequate healthcare for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Serena’s return in Miami sparked debate among commentators over creating buffers within the rules to give women more agency over absences in their career.
“I think it’s more of a protection for women to have a life. You shouldn’t have to wait to have a baby until you retire…you shouldn’t have to be penalized for that,” she said.
Hopefully this will inspire the WTA to not only look at its rules on rankings, but also provide supportive child care like its ATP counterpart, plus other amenities for the burgeoning amount of mothers on tour. As the longevity of a WTA career continues to increase, this will continue to be an important conversation for women who are athletes. No worries, though — this mom is on a mission and she’s intent on having nothing hold her back.
Image taken from Zimbio.com