40 LOVE Icons: Serena Williams
Published December 20, 2013 12:03
All year on wtatennis.com we've profiled WTA legends from the past - Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, to name a few - but one of the WTA's biggest legends is still playing, dominating even, and it looks like she's going to become more and more legendary.
Though she had made it clear she would be a force to come in the future, Williams' big breakthrough came at the US Open in 1999, navigating a star-studded path - which included Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martínez, Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis - for her first Grand Slam title. After winning her 17th major at the US Open this year, they played '1999' by Prince on the sound system.
"It was amazing winning at 17," Williams said. "For whatever reason, I never thought I was going to lose that year. I just knew I was going to win it. And I remember I took my opportunity right then and there, and I made some shots and wasn't making as many errors. It was just a great feeling.
"Being older now, it's such a great honor to win it again, because I don't know if I'll ever win another Grand Slam. Obviously I hope so. I say that every time I win one. I'm just really excited about this."
She was then asked how the Williams of 1999 would stack up against the Williams of 2013, soon 2014.
"I've been looking at film from when I was 17. I remember I played Steffi Graf at Indian Wells and gosh, I was good! I had no idea. I was coming to the net and I was like, 'Me? I had volleys?' So I really don't know how we would do against each other. We both never give up. It would be interesting to see."
A lot of tennis players - and athletes in general, and celebrities too - make a number of sacrifices in their childhood to achieve success in their profession, but to Williams this hasn't been a sacrifice.
"I've always seen it as an opportunity to be here and do the best I can. Maybe I didn't hang out with people or go out as a kid, maybe I didn't experience all of that, but I wouldn't trade this experience in for anything. I was given an opportunity where I could play tennis and I could become good at it.
"For me, it wasn't a sacrifice."
Another thing tennis isn't for Williams is a means to a paycheque. Having won both the US Open Series and US Open this year, she earned a $3.6 million payout - the equal-biggest payout in the history of the sport, alongside Rafael Nadal, who pulled off the same US Open Series-US Open double this summer. But the prize money was never a goal for the American - she's reaching for other stars.
"Never, never in my life have I picked up a cheque - I don't play tennis for the money. I honestly love to play. I love Grand Slams. When I grew up playing tennis in Compton, I just never thought about any of this. I didn't think about the press. I didn't even know all of this came with everything. My dad got me into tennis because of the money, but being naive and silly, I never thought about it myself.
"I just thought, 'I want to win. I want to do what Venus does. I want to win and I want to do more and I want to do more.' To this day I have never ever picked up a cheque in my life. I remember back in the day, before wiring, they used to mail it because I would just forget it. I didn't pick it up tonight either.
"I'm happy about the opportunity I had because of my sister, because of Billie Jean King and so many pioneers to have an opportunity to win some money like this. But I really play for the love of tennis."