Serena Williams opens up about women’s empowerment and smashes the fallacy: “I just want to play tennis”

Often considered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest players of all time, Serena Williams was always more than just a tennis player. The impact she has had often spilled beyond the sporting spheres, tackling hard-hitting social concerns like gender pay gap and women empowerment. She may not have all the so-called GOAT-debate-settling statistics on her side (although she comes mighty close), but Williams has had more of a positive influence than anybody before her.

And in an exclusive interview with Marie Claire Italy, the 23-time Grand Slam champion admitted that she never planned on becoming a beacon for social change but rather something that just happened organically as years passed following her foray into tennis.

Serena Williams urges patience for change As if purely sporting expectations weren’t enough, Serena Williams has also had to carry the weight of representing the best interests of different groups of society, be it Black athletes, women and later, mothers. But being a torch-bearer is never easy, as she admitted in her interview with Marie Claire Italy.

“It was definitely exhausting but it was also super fulfilling. I never thought I’d be in a position to do work like this. You know, I just wanted to play tennis. I never thought there was more. It’s just like I started in one direction and then somehow ended up in so many different directions. And all of this was really, really, great.”

When it comes to women empowerment, tennis has been one sport where progressive minds seem to have prevailed although there is still some ways to go. In 2007, Roland Garros became the fourth and last Major to offer equal pay for men and women. While the US Open had made the change way back in 1973 and the Australian Open in 2001, both Wimbledon and Roland Garros were adamant on the traditional distribution of prize money before finally following suit in 2007.

In this particular effort and victory, it was the elder tennis sibling, Venus Williams, who played a significant part, attending a Grand Slam committee meeting with the then WTA Tour head Larry Scott. And Serena clearly has since taken inspiration from elder sister and carried on in the same vein but believes that there is still a long way to go.

“I think there will always be a lot of work to do. I think there has been a lot of progress on women’s empowerment but we still have a long way to go. There is always much more than what we see that can still be achieved. It is not possible to expect to grow into a perfect society when the empowerment of women has just begun, really not that long ago. So I would just say that there will be more and more room to evolve if we are willing to undertake the work necessary to make this movement become an adult.”

All these expectations and responsibilities can be difficult to deal with and easy to get lost in. However, Serena tries to be true to herself and keep getting to know herself as a principle in life.

Williams’ last year on the Forbes List? With an estimated earnings of $45.3 million, Serena Williams figured at the 49th spot on Forbes list of highest earning athletes of the last 12 months. With the likelihood of this being the last time she makes it on the list, we might have to wait a while until we another female athlete on the list. Not many sports have followed suit and changed the norm as tennis has, and many of the most popular sports being team games, it is likely going to take a while for it to happen.

But if not prize money, brand endorsements certainly have the potential to give sufficient boost to female athletes to compete with the males. Williams herself earned a major chunk of this $45 million by endorsing big brands like Nike and Lincoln. While Venus may have played a bigger part in equaling pay in tennis in terms of prize money, Serena has paved the way for female athletes to get more brand endorsements by proving to be as marketable as anybody.

Unfortunately, it could very well be the last time we see the Queen of tennis on the Forbes list given her second pregnancy and the fact that she has retired from the sport of tennis. One thing is for certain though- Serena Williams will always be relevant, as a businesswoman and a mother if not as an active tennis player.

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