How Serena Williams rewrote the playbook for female athletes

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(CNN)When Serena Williams announced that she would "evolve distant from tennis," she was pictured with her five-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

The 23-time expansive slam victor was photographed connected a sunset formation wearing a Balenciaga gown, with Olympia's look peeking down the bid of her pulverization bluish dress.

"Believe me, I ne'er wanted to person to take betwixt tennis and a family. I don't deliberation it's fair," Williams said successful an nonfiction successful Vogue, published successful August.

    "If I were a guy, I wouldn't beryllium penning this due to the fact that I'd beryllium retired determination playing and winning portion my woman was doing the carnal labour of expanding our family.

      "I've been reluctant to admit to myself oregon anyone other that I person to determination connected from playing tennis," she added.

      Serena Williams' farewell lucifer  smashes ESPN ratings records

      Williams expressed the affectional turmoil of making the determination to turn her household and forgo her dedication to her athletics -- a predicament that galore nonrecreational pistillate athletes look during their sporting careers.

      "The symptom successful the nonfiction that Serena talked about, radical don't recognize it, and I'm gladsome she's precise vocal astir that," Team USA heptathlete Lindsay Flach says successful the opening scenes of the caller CNN Film, "Serena Williams: On Her Terms."

        "People don't recognize that you sometimes bash person to ... prime motherhood implicit athletics.

        "It is hard to take betwixt 1 oregon the other. And it's decidedly precise hard to bash both."

        Playing against the likelihood

        Early successful her career, Williams learned to thrive successful conditions that weren't built for her to succeed, arsenic a Black pistillate athlete.

        Born successful September 1981 successful Saginaw, Michigan and increasing up successful the bluish collar metropolis of Compton, California, Williams grew up with her older sisters, Venus, Lyndrea, Isha and Yetunde and her mother, Oracene Price. Her father, Richard Williams, started coaching her and Venus erstwhile the duo were toddlers.

        "Venus and Serena, with the assistance of their father, knowingly oregon unknowingly came into tennis unapologetically arsenic they are. Black young girls playing successful this White world," broadcast writer Cari Champion tells CNN during the documentary.

        "He felt similar if helium could thatch his daughters that this White satellite of tennis is not your friend, and if you tin thrive successful this satellite nether each circumstances, fixed the worst and the best, you tin bash thing successful life."

        Serena Williams with her begetter  Richard Williams and her sister Venus.

        As the sisters' tennis abilities bloomed, truthful did the buzz surrounding their nascent careers.

        In 1990, Venus became the top-ranked pistillate subordinate nether 12 successful confederate California, landing the screen of The New York Times and the pages of Sports Illustrated.

        In 1991 the household moved to Florida, wherever some sisters trained with nonrecreational coaches for the archetypal time. After playing tennis distant from the inferior circuit for respective years, Williams turned pro erstwhile she was 14, a twelvemonth aft Venus.

        A caller era

        During her meteoric emergence to 1 of the top tennis players of each time, Williams proved that she had the willpower to upwind galore nonrecreational and idiosyncratic challenges.

        In 1999, the 18-year-old Williams stunned satellite No. 1 Martina Hingis successful the US Open last to triumph her archetypal expansive slam, marking the dawn of a caller era.

        "It's truly large news. I'm truly doing well, and it's bully quality for the minorities and conscionable a antithetic radical of radical to spot tennis, and conscionable spot tennis successful a antithetic limelight," Williams said successful a post-match interview.

        Williams kisses the trophy aft  beating Martina Hingis astatine  the US Open final.

        She became World No. 1 for the archetypal clip successful her vocation astatine the property of 20, aft beating defending champion Venus astatine the 2002 Wimbledon final. She subsequently achieved her archetypal "Serena Slam," by winning each 4 expansive slam titles from 2002 to 2003.

        But portion she and her household endured racist maltreatment -- astir notably astatine the Indian Wells last successful 2001 -- they besides grieved the decease of her older half-sister, Yetunde Prince, who was murdered successful Compton successful 2003.

        In 2006, Wiliams took a interruption from tennis and fell retired of the apical 100 successful the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.

        Serena Williams has done it each  successful  tennis, but there's truthful  overmuch  much  to travel

        She entered the Australian Open successful 2007 ranked 81st, according to the authoritative tourney website. Despite her hiatus, she remained unbeatable and triumphed implicit Maria Sharapova successful the last successful 63 minutes, winning 6-1 6-2.

        In the coming years Williams added to her tally of expansive slam victories, winning her 3rd consecutive US Open rubric successful September 2014 and her seventh Wimbledon rubric successful 2016, tying Steffi Graf for the astir singles titles successful the Open era.

        'She was connected fire'

        When Williams entered the 3rd decennary of her career, her adjacent extremity was breaking Graf's grounds for the astir singles titles successful the Open era.

        In 2017, she did conscionable that by beating Venus successful the Australian Open final.

        "It's specified a large feeling, to person 23. It truly feels great," Serena told reporters during a post-match property conference.

        "She was connected occurrence successful this tournament. She was conscionable thrashing players," Rennae Stubbs, erstwhile nonrecreational tennis subordinate and four-time Olympian, tells CNN during the documentary.

        "What I didn't recognize is that she was already pregnant, which is conscionable unreal."

        Flach recovered herself successful the akin concern to Williams erstwhile she competed astatine the Olympic trials successful 2021 successful Eugene, Oregon 18 weeks into her gestation with her son, Rylan.

        "I would person liked it to spell overmuch amended adjacent being pregnant," Flach tells CNN during the documentary. "I had nary thought what was happening. I had nary thought what the adjacent measurement was going to be."

        Serena Williams with her girl  aft  a US Open lucifer  this year.

        After announcing her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian successful December 2016, Williams gave commencement to Olympia successful September 2017 -- hardly 8 months aft winning the Australian Open.

        In January 2018 she opened up astir the galore aesculapian trials she faced successful the weeks aft her labour and delivery, telling Vogue: "No 1 talks astir the debased moments — the unit you feel, the unthinkable letdown each clip you perceive the babe outcry ... The emotions are insane."

        Jennie Finch, a erstwhile softball subordinate and Olympic medalist, had her archetypal child, Ace, successful May 2006. She tells CNN that, similar Williams, she recovered it hard to grapple with the tidal question of emotions that came with motherhood.

        "Being an athlete, you're selfish, you know? You're a fierce competitor. Your full beingness has been that way. And past this small kid comes successful and conscionable takes your bosom and steals it away," Finch says during the documentary.

        "All of these, like, brushed emotions I consciousness similar that we're told to benignant of suppress. This is it, you're faced with your bosom being torn successful two.

        "I'm truthful thankful that I inactive get to beryllium astir the game, and it's inactive a large portion of who I americium and what I do. But it's antithetic erstwhile you genuinely bent up the cleats for good."

        Taking power of her narrative

        In September, Williams' tennis vocation apt came to an extremity aft she fell to Australia's Ajla Tomljanović successful the 3rd circular of the US Open.

        In a infinitesimal of serendipitous symmetry, she waved farewell connected the tribunal wherever she won her archetypal expansive slam.

        "I wouldn't beryllium Serena if determination wasn't Venus," she told ESPN successful an on-court interrogation aft the match. "She's the lone crushed Serena Williams ever existed."

        Throughout her illustrious career, Williams won 73 vocation singles titles, 23 doubles titles and 2 mixed doubles titles which includes 39 expansive slam titles -- 23 singles titles, 14 doubles titles and 2 mixed doubles titles. She is 1 singles expansive slam rubric down the all-time grounds held by Australian Margaret Court.

        Serena Williams' husband, Alexis Ohanian, and girl  Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., ticker  her play   during the archetypal  circular  of the 2022 US Open.

        "To me, Serena is, like, the figurehead of, like, a strong, pistillate athlete. Now, she wants to absorption connected her family, but it conscionable showed everyone that you tin beryllium a ma and inactive beryllium a top-performing athlete," WNBA subordinate Napheesa Collier tells CNN during the documentary.

        From appearing successful Beyoncé's "Lemonade" and earning six Oscar nominations for "King Richard," to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Williams paved the mode for Black pistillate athletes to forge multi-dimensional careers.

        "Growing up, I ne'er thought that I was antithetic because, you know, the fig 1 subordinate successful the satellite was idiosyncratic who looked similar me," satellite No. 12 Coco Gauff has said.

        "She's introduced radical that person ne'er heard of tennis into the sport, and I deliberation I'm a merchandise of what she's done," four-time expansive slam champion Naomi Osaka has besides said.

        Serena Williams pictured ringing the opening   doorbell  connected  the level  of the NYSE successful  New York, US, connected  Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

        Looking to the future, Williams said she would pivot distant from tennis to absorption connected her task fund, Serena Ventures. The institution has invested successful 66 startups, 78% of which were started by women and radical of color.

        "We've watched her germinate into this beautiful, concern savvy young pistillate who is present genuinely looking up and making definite that her vocation and her bequest is wholly narrated by her," Champion says successful the documentary.

          "At the extremity of the day, I americium who I americium and I emotion who I am. And I emotion the interaction I tin person connected radical done companies and women and radical of color," Williams erstwhile said.

          "If I didn't person the passionateness that I person connected the tennis court, I wouldn't person passionateness for what I bash now."

          Don't miss the premiere of the caller CNN documentary, "Serena Williams: On Her Terms" connected Sunday, September 11, astatine 20:00 ET.

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