Serena Williams: did somebody say icon #2?

We take a look at her extraordinary story, both on and off the courts.

Serena Williams Roland-Garros
 - Elodie Iriart

Having just turned 40, Serena Williams manages to seamlessly juggle her roles as the queen of tennis, a liberated woman and a mother.

She poses backstage with her friend Meghan Markle, her entourage is a festival of famous names (Eva Longoria, Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland) and she asserts her iconic style wherever she goes. We take a look at her extraordinary story, both on and off the courts.

Serena Williams Roland-Garros©Christophe Saidi / FFT

How Serena Williams became Serena Williams.

Born in Michigan in 1981, Serena Williams grew up in the bosom of her family in a suburb of Los Angeles, where her father, Richard, pushed her to take up tennis alongside her elder sister Venus. Destiny had the same thing in mind for the sporting world’s most famous sisters.

When she clinched her first Grand Slam victory in Flushing Meadows (US Open) in 1999 against Martina Hingis, Serena Williams burst into the big time and became one of the international tennis elites.

Mature beyond her years, powerful, a high-achiever and hungry for trophies, the prodigal daughter of women’s tennis went on to win everything in sight. She was such a whirlwind that she even ousted her elder sister from the world number one spot after notching up a series of prestigious titles and was unbeatable on court until 2003.

With a playing style centred around her powerful serve and baseline shots, Serena Williams revolutionised 21st-century women’s tennis. Between 2012 and 2015 – in four short years – she won eight Grand Slam tournaments. To date, her honours list features 23 major singles titles, 16 in the doubles, and 4 Olympic medals. If she wins just one more major, Serena will match Margaret Court’s famous “24” and will then, unquestionably, be the greatest female player of all time.

Her game, her career, her longevity and her personality have catapulted her to the highest level of sport. She has had her fair share of injuries, difficult times, dramas (a pulmonary embolism, her sister’s murder) plus the inherent pressure of being a celebrity, but despite all these setbacks she has a well-deserved place in the Tennis Hall of Fame.

There is no doubt that, by the end of her career, the American champion will have left an indelible mark on the history of tennis.

Serena Williams Roland-Garros©Ella Ling / FFT

Serena Williams, a strong woman

Serena, who celebrated her 40th birthday on Sunday 26th September, has shaken things up both on and off the courts. She is an emblematic tennis star who inspires so many people, a champion who has transcended her sport.  

More than an honours list, hers is a story in itself. The story of a girl from Compton, a suburb in southern Los Angeles, well-known as a poor and crime-ridden ghetto in the 1980s. It was there that she first picked up a racquet at the age of four. Eager to carve out a better life for his family, Richard Williams took them to Florida.

This was when Serena first experienced racism. Richard Williams did everything he could do to protect his daughters from insults. Sometimes he succeeded, but unfortunately not always.

Throughout her career, Serena has been an iconic athlete with phenomenal determination, proud of her beliefs, her history, the colour of her skin, her style and her looks, her body and, of course, her game.

Serena Williams is one of the most predominant stars of her era. Bravely endorsing freedom for women, she has become a figurehead for the women’s liberation movement thanks to her exploits, her commitments, her bold style, her personality and her role as a doting mother.

Serena Williams Roland-Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

From the courts to the catwalk

In a tutu, a one-piece, denim shorts or a superwoman cape, Serena Williams proudly flaunts her style and identity. Having starred on many different magazine covers, she is always on the guest list for the hottest fashion shows. Away from the courts, Serena is now more confident and radiant than ever.

She sits on the front row at fashion shows, poses with Gigi and Bella Hadid, and joins Beyoncé both on stage and in her music videos. Powerful, liberated and glamorous, the American champ is the ultimate embodiment of fashion, both on and off the courts.