At a Wimbledon press conference on Friday, The Telegraph’s Jamie Johnson asked legendary tennis player and Olympic medalist Serena Williams how she handles being “the one to beat” on the court. In response, Williams did something women often don’t: she acknowledged her achievements and didn’t shy away from celebrating her own success.
“I’m glad someone admitted that,” Williams said. “Every single match I play, whether I’m coming back from a baby, or surgery, it doesn’t matter, because these young ladies bring a game that I’ve never seen before… When I watch them play, it’s a totally different game than when they play me.”
Williams also celebrated the women who challenge her on the courts—and credited them for making her even better. “I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater,” Williams explained, saying that the fierce competition her opponents bring when they’re facing her in a match is “what makes her great.” She declared that her skill level is “so much higher because of it, from years and years of being played like that.”
About a month ago, at a press conference for the French Open, a journalist asked Williams whether she had “ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court.” She confidently responded that she never had. Williams has no reason to respond differently, of course; the winner of four Olympic gold medals and 23 Grand Slam titles is often revered as the greatest living athlete.
That alone is revolutionary, considering Williams’ identity as a woman in sports, and specifically a Black woman in the white, male-dominated world of tennis. In every assertion that she recognizes her own greatness, Williams additionally inspires women everywhere to do the same—without apologizing.
Carmiya Baskin is an editorial intern at Ms. and a third-year Feminist Studies major at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in The Bottom Line, a student-run newspaper at UCSB, and EqualTalk, a feminist blog she co-founded through a women empowerment and teen leadership organization, Girls Give Back. She is passionate about all things related to intersectional feminism, Harry Potter and Disney, and she enjoys eating peanut butter right out of the jar while binge-watching The Office.