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What Serena Williams Means to Her Fans


It’s hard to say what’s stronger: Serena Williams’s howitzer serves, or the deep and powerful passions she provokes from fans watching those shots — particularly those that have been forged as outsiders in tennis.

Since this 12 months’s U.S. Open is sort of likely Williams’s last skilled tournament, we asked readers to share personal memories of watching her play, and to inform of the emotions that she stirred. There was no shortage of submissions through which fans described their relationships to Serena, and Venus — how the sisters inspired them to observe matches, travel to tournaments and even take up the sport themselves.

That relationship was particularly powerful amongst Black fans, who referred to Serena Williams as “family,” “our sister” and “our Wonder Woman.”

She has been on the world stage, playing top-flight tennis, for nearly 1 / 4 century. But her legacy goes far beyond what she did between the lines. It’s also within the fans she drew to tennis and the joy she provoked amongst those that witnessed her greatness.

(The responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.)

Amanda: My friends and I speak about it to today: Once you had beads in your hair as a child, you couldn’t tell us nothing. It felt like they were bringing our childhood to the court along with her.

She opened doors for Black women to enter spaces where we’re not welcome and in addition to not conform. She brought her hairstyle. She brought her structure, her construct. She brought the emotion. Numerous times as a Black woman, you’re told to be quiet. When she was upset, everyone knew. She showed anger.

Serena showed me that who I’m is enough. We’re enough. She seems like an enormous sister. And we got here here for her, like, “We’re here for you.”

Rachel: In a whole lot of ways, I feel like I’ve grown up with Serena, experiencing the identical phases of life that she has at the identical time. I even have a really strong, visceral feeling toward her. After I was pregnant with my second child, John, I remember seeing her five-part documentary and watching her undergo the entire birthing experience.

That was so on my mind after I was pregnant with him because I just was not getting the care that I felt like I should and like my doctors weren’t listening to me. I used to be seven months pregnant, and I made a decision to modify practices. I’m so glad I did because we had a bit little bit of a situation during his birth, but I felt so way more secure. Just knowing her story and knowing how she needed to advocate for herself, even to the physicians. And I felt like I even have to advocate for myself in the identical way with my birthing story.

I’ve been going to U.S. Open for 30 years. As a Black woman, seeing her winning was transformative for me. I was one among the few Black fans in my early years. Now lots of my Black friends from college go. That was not the case within the ’90s.

Serena resonates with me because she is unashamedly Black. She did things on her own terms and propelled herself to greatness, doing so in a sport that felt by design that it was off limits to Black people. She is my only sports hero, and to me will at all times be the best.

The U.S. Open may very well be the tennis star’s last skilled tournament after an extended profession of breaking boundaries and obliterating expectations.

I tear up over her 2007 Australian Open win, where she was so heavily criticized for her weight and dedication to the game. After winning, she gave a tribute speech to her late sister, Yetunde Price. When I even have a tricky day, I rewatch that final.

Race, body, gender, being a mother — her dedication to the game has at all times been questioned, but she at all times stepped up. I’ve lived with Serena (and Venus) in my life because the age of 8, and now I’m 32 and their presence in a typically white-lily sport was so comforting to see. It’s just amazing to see prior to now decade how she is finally being adored for the treasure and icon she truly is.

Watching Serena win the 1999 U.S. Open on television — beads flying — warmed my heart. At the moment, tennis commentators expressed disdain at Venus and Serena. They didn’t belong. They simply had “power,” not tennis acumen. It took several years before those commentators realized each was a prodigy chargeable for elevating women’s tennis.

Serena’s response to unbelievable pressure on the unforgiving world stage resonates with the pressure I faced throughout my legal profession.

Monique: I went to Wimbledon in 2019 by myself. I’ve been to the Cincinnati Open and I’ve been to the Miami Open. Numerous times I just get looks and energy that claims, “You don’t belong” and “Why are you here?” It’s an invisible, strong thing that claims, “Don’t be here.”

Seeing Serena, for me it was that inspiration of seeing the grit and determination, not only in her, but in her sister and her father and her mom and her other relations. Everyone has to support so it’s a family affair.

My daughter, Kayla, surprised me because Sunday was my birthday and I’ve been wanting to come back see Serena. We saw her practice yesterday so I used to be very joyful.

Kayla: She’s so sweet. Her motherhood, her advocacy for Black women of their pregnancies, just watching her undergo normal life, like we love her. She’s our Wonder Woman.

I used to be there on the French Open in 2018, when Serena got here back from maternity leave wearing the infamous cat suit. I cheered for her as loudly as I could, shouting “Go, Mama!” in between points. My daughter, Camille, is 11 now, and she or he doesn’t quite grasp how extraordinary Serena’s achievements are, because she’s been at the highest of the sport her whole life.

From Arthur Ashe to Zina Garrison, I even have at all times followed the Black players. Watching Venus and Serena grow into the sport and dominate, it was like a vicarious, cathartic triumph.

I graduated from highschool the identical 12 months that Serena won her first Grand Slam title, so the Williams sisters were my entry point: They’re what brought me into tennis and introduced a young, queer kid to the sport.

I even have been to each U.S. Open from 2012 to this 12 months, minus 2020, in fact. When Serena and Venus play, there’s an actual energy here. After which on the years after they’re not here, it’s just … different.

Back home, people ask me, “Why do you continue to support them? They don’t win.” Or, “Why is she still playing?” I could care less about if she loses in the primary round or not. That is more a few send-off. If she’s not playing great, my hope is that she plays someone worthy of beating her. And I hope she doesn’t surrender on tennis after she’s done playing. I even have a sense we may never see her at one other tennis tournament, like when Steffi Graf retired. I hope that’s not the case.

My two best friends and I watched her win the U.S. Open finals in ’12, ’13 and ’14, and we gasped in unison when she was one botched swing volley from a calendar slam in 2015. But my most joyous experience was watching her demolish the sphere on the 2012 Olympics. It was a remarkable performance.

My best friends and I recognize that we root for Serena like she’s OUR sister. We experience her dominance; every little bit of frustration she shows on court we feel along with her. She is proud enough of her excellence to demand perfection of herself, and she or he has freed other women to do the identical.

Bukunmi: We have now two older sisters, and so they play, too. My dad put us all in tennis due to Serena and Venus. In order that they all began young, after which as soon as we could walk we began playing tennis. It looks like Serena’s had a really long profession because I began watching her after I was 3 and now I’m 17, still watching her.

She never gives up. Having the ability to stay calm while playing tennis, with the ability to motivate yourself on the court — because she may be vocal — I feel like that’s necessary.

Morayo: The Serena and [Naomi] Osaka match really made me realize how humble Serena actually was because regardless that the group was along with her, at the tip she lost and she or he still supported Osaka in that moment. That was nice. It exposed so much concerning the tennis community, that one match.

If I saw her, I’d probably try to give her a hug or something. I might tell her I appreciate all that she’s done and the way great of an individual she’s been.

The Black community has a maxim: “It’s good to be twice pretty much as good” to make it in America. So, when one among us pries open the gates and makes it through the gauntlet, it’s a cause for all to have fun. Over 20 years, we have now celebrated with Venus and Serena and we have now shaken our fists at our TVs over the cultural insults they’ve born: insults to Compton, to Richard Williams’s unshakable confidence, to their braids, to their bodies, to their (unfeminine) power game, to their assertiveness (as if this were latest to tennis), to the thinly disguised racism of the TV commentators. To every insult, Serena and Venus have had a solution: They were greater than “twice pretty much as good.”

My very first U.S. Open in 2013, I caught the Amtrak with my mom, and as we were on our way there, it began to rain. Upon arriving within the gates, we heard over the loud speaker that the match had been canceled. I used to be totally upset. I had never been to a tennis tournament and had no concept that if a match is canceled, you don’t get your a reimbursement. I didn’t wish to see some other players: We got here for Serena only. Luckily, my mom was capable of take off work again and we repurchased tickets for her second-round match on her option to win the tournament that 12 months.

Serena is such a logo of beating all odds and breaking all barriers. For me, it shows that if we, Black people, are given access, we are going to show and prove we belong. She is the best athlete and didn’t until the past few years get her flowers because she is a Black woman.

Sonia: I used to be a tennis fan before the Williams sisters, but after they began, I became more. Once they are playing, I’m in for the sport. I don’t leave my TV.

Abigail: She cheers and screams. Sometimes after I’m within the bedroom and I hear her, I feel something’s unsuitable. I’m like, “What’s unsuitable, what’s unsuitable?” and she or he says, “No, it’s just the sport. I’m joyful due to Serena.”

Sonia: I see her, I see me. ? With Serena Williams and Venus, it’s not concerning the money. They put their heart in. They put their heart and every little thing in it, so I’m going for them. Once they leave, I’ll still come to the Open, though. I like Naomi Osaka and Coco (Gauff). Coco has that Serena-go-for-it, too.

On the 2015 Western and Southern Open, after I walked within the ticket-taker said, “Serena’s practicing in Court 14 if you must see her.” I hurried over and stood on the chain-link fence surrounding the court and watched as she practiced and was coached by Patrick Mouratoglou. It was a thrill to easily be that near her! I even have photos from that day that I’ll keep endlessly. Standing and watching her, I could feel her power, energy and keenness even on the practice court. Strangely I don’t recall whether she won her match that day.

Her power, passion and unbelievably strong mind-set all resonate with me. I do know she’s going to shake things up when she is on the court. Seriously, nobody else on the earth would have the heart to come back play Wimbledon with no match play. She is the queen.

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