July 16, 2024
Serena Williams

Serena Williams retired from tennis two years ago, saying then that she needed to shift her focus to her young daughter, Olympia. Since then, the 42-year-old has given birth to a second child, Adira, with husband Alexis Ohanian and geared up the activity at her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures. Unlike some athletes, Williams didn’t turn her back on her sport when she left it: in fact, she says she can imagine a world where she’s still competing, and cites Zendaya-starring tennis film Challengers as one of her recent faves.

In an interview with the New York Times, Williams says that watching a new ESPN+ docuseries, the eight-part In the Arena: Serena Williams, was the first time she’s been able to look objectively at her career, after decades in the grind. “I actually refused to go down memory lane during my career, because I always said that’s when you get satisfied,” she says.

“My whole mission in life was playing tennis. What are you doing today? Practice. What are you going to do? Train. And if you get injured, what are you doing today? Rehab. And that had been my life for over 40 years.”

If that sounds daunting, well, that’s why she’s won 23 Grand Slam tournaments, and we haven’t. Unlike you or I, Williams doesn’t regret years spent in that grueling cycle. In fact, she says, “Honestly, I feel like I would still be playing if I didn’t have to stop and have a family.”

Last month, the athlete made a stir when she tweeted that she was “ready to hit some balls again.” When asked about the post, she says, “It wasn’t cryptic. I literally am ready to hit balls. I haven’t hit in a long time. It’s my life, and I love it, and I miss it so much.”

That nostalgia might be one of the reasons Williams recently sat down to watch Challengers, that sexually charged tennis world love triangle that pairs Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor with a driven tennis star played by Zendaya. “I thought it was good!” Williams says of the film. “I actually felt like there was so much accuracy in there about things that we don’t think about as tennis players or even talk about as tennis players.”

According to Williams, after watching the movie, she reached out to Zendaya with questions about it. “I wanted there to be more of an ending,” Williams says. “I told Zendaya: ‘Listen, is there more? Like, I want more. Did they win?’” Unfortunately, Zendaya’s response is not disclosed.

Between ball-hitting talk and her pop-culture picks, it’s understandable that people are wondering if Williams intends to return to the circuit. At least for now, the answer appears to be “no,” even though her brand—and her mind—still remains on the court.

“You have to understand,” she says, “for my entire life, since I can remember, it’s been about one thing. I don’t know anything else.”

“Of course, I prefer playing tennis, but that’s because I’ve done it my whole life. Of course, you prefer doing something that you’ve done since you could walk.”

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