She may play the Australian Open, her final shot at glory.
“Serena’s father, who became her first coach, responded to my question, ‘Lucky? Do you want to know what is being lucky? Taking your daughters in the sweltering summer heat for tennis classes and not getting shot at is being lucky. That’s where we stayed and survived’.” Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj recollected his chat with Richard William, Venus and Serena’s father.
“Sounds surreal but yes, it’s true”, on the sidelines of Davis Cup at Delhi, the Indian legend quipped before sipping hot coffee at Delhi’s picturesque Gymkhana Club earlier this year. “That’s where Serena got her crash course for life and the movie (King William) captures their struggle, super highs, and deep lows,” followed by his trademark husky laughter.
Serena’s tennis journey is like a movie plot. After a classic run of over 100 super titles across 27 years, she makes a dramatic comeback after a career threatening injury, fights body shaming and bids tearful adieu to her fans on Saturday after a three-set loss at the US Open against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.
Braving against all odds and riding on a supercharged commercial deal running into millions, Serena made a comeback to this year’s US Open. While Serena’s comeback in itself was huge enough to send the tennis fraternity into euphoria, it was Serena’s outfit during the US Open that stole everyone’s breath. She wore a figure skating-inspired Nike dress at the US Open, designed by her and has six layers in honour of her six magnificent title wins at the Flushing Meadows. If her playing outfit was the showstopper, her shoes took the oomph factor a notch higher. It was specially designed Court Flare two shoes that included a diamond-encrusted swoosh and solid gold lace deubrés with 400 hand-set diamonds.
Serena’s gradual progress from 1999 is commendable. Incidentally, when Serena won her maiden US Open in September 1999, a week later, a movie on sports blazed movie halls in the United States—For Love of the Game. Featuring Kevin Costner and (late) Kelly Preston, the movie depicted the perfect game performance of an ageing star baseball pitcher, Billy Chapel as he deals with pressures of pitching in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, just before retirement.
Serena lost the US Open on Friday night. She went down to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović [5-7,7-6(4),1-6] in a gruelling battle.
A tearful Serena post-match showed her appreciation to the fans at the stands and millions around the world. In a veiled attempt to let everyone know that she is not done yet after her heart-breaking loss to Alja, she said when asked about her retirement, “I don’t think so, but you never know.” “I always did love Australia.” Incidentally, Australia is the venue for the next Grand Slam, the Australian Open.
ADVERSITY & PUSHING HER LIMITS
The journey to be the best and revered across the world, however, did not come easy to her. She had to fight sharp odds, more so her father, who was disrespected and mocked by people around when they saw him shuttle his daughters Venus and Serena, from their home in Compton, California, where both imbibed tennis skills on public courts, rather than attending tennis clinics and playing at tournaments throughout Southern California.
Few people knew Serena was pregnant with her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., when she beat Venus in the 2017 Australian Open finals for her 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy. Serena’s trophy cabinet is as envious as it could get and has a total of 23 Grand Slams singles titles stacked up in there including six US Open, three French Open, Seven Australian Open, seven Wimbledon, four Olympic gold in addition to 73 singles titles and 14 Grand Slam trophies.
Out of those 23 titles, she won seven of them against her elder sister and guiding light Venus. Venus has been the biggest pillar of strength on Serena and her statement post her third-round exit at the US Open, further consolidates it. “I would not be Serena if there was no Venus, so thank you, Venus. She is the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed.”
Their aggression made up for the lack of resources. Another issue was later in her career, when her fans became trollers. Serena dug her heels in and responded with her bulging biceps, took twice the criticism, with disparagers body shaming her. The younger, more muscular sister accepted being blessed with thick thighs and round backs that ladies elsewhere pay good money to achieve through surgery. Instead of hiding her curves, she flaunted them in and off the court with enviable outfits while playing or posing nude for the cover of Vanity Fair while being pregnant.
Serena Williams is married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and according to Forbes, she has a net worth of $240 million which invariably puts her in various lists of richest celebrities in the world. But most important is the fact that she has graduated into a promising entrepreneur. She’s been studying money investment and funding start-ups. Serena Ventures is an outcome of that effort, which has a market cap of $14 billion and 29 active investments.
Serena Ventures is a micro venture capital firm in California that focuses on early-stage companies. Founded in 2014 in San Francisco, California, by Serena Williams, it invests in early-stage ventures, series C, series A, series B, and seed rounds.
Their most significant last year was on 27 May 2021, when Infinite Objects raised $6M. Serena understands having a business mindset simply means you understand and appreciate the unique value offered. This is a great departure from the tried and tested formula where retiring players would retire into real estate monthly rental income. Serena has active investments in 60 companies and 78% of investments are in companies started by women and ethnic and diverse backgrounds.
The author is the founder of Indian Sports Fan.