Serena Williams left it all on the court every time she played, win or lose. She gave tennis and her fans everything she had. Now at 41, the legend wants to devote her time to her family. Explicitly having another baby, granting her daughter’s wish to be a “big sister.”
As a tennis fan, I loved watching John McEnroe and his battles with Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg — sprinkled with his crazy antics. I watched Chris Evert dominate in the 70s and Martina Navratilova as she won her nine Wimbledon trophies. They both climbed the ladder of women’s tennis success. Billie Jean King fought for women’s tennis to get the same pay as their counterparts. But that’s a story for another day.
The story of Serena Williams and her older sister, Venus, is the focus here. It’s a story that starts in Southern California when the two were young and has stood the test of time up until Serena announcing she’s stepping away. But the story doesn’t come close to ending here.
Stars are born: Serena Williams and Venus Williams become immediate prodigies
While Evert and Navratilova were atop of women’s tennis in 1981, a little girl named Serena Williams was born in Michigan and would rise to ranks higher than the Open era had ever seen. A year earlier, her sister Venus was born, and together they would change the face of tennis forever, not just women’s tennis.
Venus would be first. As Serena pined for the day that it would be her turn. She observed her sister and learned from the mistakes she made. Learning from Venus’ mistakes helped Serena get through the ranks with speed. At one point in their careers, Serena was number one in the world and Venus was number two.
The tennis gods gave the world two players like no one had ever seen.
King Richard: who is better, Venus or Serena?
You don’t get the impression that the sisters played tennis for the money they made. Especially not in the beginning. Venus wanted to prove what she could do, and all Serena wanted was to be allowed to play. But their father was strict in his regimen and was determined not to stray from it. So their mother would help train them also and allowed her husband to do just so much “to her girls.”
According to the movie King Richard, when Nike offered Venus a $3 million endorsement, she wouldn’t take it because she hadn’t shown what she could do. Richard and Oracene Williams had a dream for their girls and believed in that dream. However, Serena and Venus believed in themselves.
In an interview with Vogue in 2022, Serena mentions that in the beginning, she couldn’t play very well.
“If you watched King Richard, then you know that when I was little, I was not very good at tennis. I was so sad when I didn’t get all the early opportunities that Venus got, but that helped me. It made me work harder, turning me into a savage fighter.”Serena Williams to Vogue (August, 2022)
Body shaming and underpaying
Adversity during their careers would turn both sisters into aggressive players. Not only for the color of their skin but also for their bodies. One high-ranking tennis official called them “the Williams brothers.”
Serena Williams may be the highest-paid female tennis player now, but it wasn’t always that way. A Vox article written in September of 2017 pointed out the disparity in the money Maria Sharapova made compared to Serena.
“But how much Sharapova gets paid compared to a player who will go down in history as the greatest woman tennis player of all time does show how far being blonde, attractive, and talented can get you when you’re a woman in the sport. To be clear, Sharapova’s talent isn’t a fluke…But she’s nowhere near the tennis player Serena Williams is.”
Venus vs. Serena
The little sister who sat back and watched as her big sister took the tennis world by storm officially shed the “big sister Venus is better” moniker when she defeated Venus at the French Open in 2002. After that, she would defeat her sister five additional times.
The 2002 French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. The following year, the sisters would meet twice with Serena coming out the victor in the 2003 Australian Open and Wimbledon. Finally, the sisters would play each other one last time when Serena would again best her sister at the 2017 Australian Open. On the other hand, Venus would only defeat her little sister twice. At the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon 2008.
Grand slams and Serena Williams net worth
Venus has won 49 singles titles and made 16 Grand Slam appearances, with a 7-9 record. Today, Venus Williams’ net worth is estimated at $95 million. She has her own sports apparel company, EleVen. She is endorsed by Nike, Wilson, Tide, Kraft, Electronic Arts, and Ralph Lauren.
Serena has won 73 singles titles, made 33 Grand Slam appearances, and has a 23-10 record. Her net worth today is approximately $260 million. Serena has her own investment company, Serena Ventures. She is endorsed by Nike, Wilson, Gatorade, Delta Airlines, Aston Martin, Pepsi, Beats by Dre, JP Morgan Chase, Audemars Piguet, Bumble, Upper Deck, IBM, and Intel.
Together, the sisters have four Olympic gold medals. They are 14-0 in Ladies Doubles and have a stake in the Miami Dolphins.
Serena Williams says goodbye to tennis
In the September 2022 issue of Vogue magazine, Serena Williams announced that she would be stepping away from tennis after the US Open. For good. She’s stepping away as stated previously, “to grow her family.”
Let’s be clear, Venus is in no way ready to retire and assures all she will be back. She has not announced when or what tournament we will see her in.
Baring her soul in the Vogue article, you might sometimes find yourself tearing up at all the memories. It seems like yesterday the teenage girls with the white beads in their hair shocked the tennis world. Serena has not allowed herself to think about retiring and wants to use another word for it instead.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”Serena Williams on transitioning away from tennis
As she gets ready to leave the sport she loves, Serena hopes that she gave back to the women tennis players coming after her,
“I’d like to think that thanks to me, women athletes can be themselves. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.”
She’s terrible at goodbyes, and at the 2022 US Open, there will be plenty of tears. So lastly, from the same Vogue piece, Serena says finally,
I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.
We will miss you too, queen!