Part 3 of "Being Serena," the five-part documentary miniseries on the life of WTA Legend Serena Williams, aired on Wednesday night on HBO. Subtitled "Family," this episode gave a snapshot of Serena's wedding to Alexis Ohanian, and juggling her impending return to the WTA with her new responsibilities as a mother and a wife, as well as a sister and a daughter.
Serena called her wedding day "one of the best days of my entire life, nowhere near a tennis court -- getting married to an amazing, handsome, slightly nerdy, but brilliant man, and doing it with some company," as she held her daughter, Olympia. "My family has always been a huge part of who I am. And now that we’re growing, that’s going to be more true than ever.”
Big sister Venus laughed about the impending ceremony on the day of the wedding. “I guess I actually believe it’s gonna happen now," giggled the seven-time major Grand Slam champion. "There’s always a gray area with Serena, and you never know when that gray area’s gonna pop out. And I’m just, you know...now I know it’s happening.”
The special bond between Serena and Venus was exemplified by Venus's toast after the wedding. "Serena, I’ve watched you grow up, you were my favorite person from such a young age," said Venus.
"My special position in life was being your older sister," Venus continued. "You were the youngest, but you’re a true champion. You were the first to win a major championship, and I followed. Of all the record-breaking and legendary things you’ve done with your life, the family you’ve created is the most important thing you’ll ever do. I’m so proud of you, and I love you guys."
"I’m still closer to Venus in some ways than I’ll ever be to anyone, even Alexis," said Serena. "The way we grew up, ‘Venus and Serena,’ ‘Serena and Venus,’ the first time a lot of people heard of us, it’s like we were joined at the hip. And the truth was, we kind of were."
"Together, we made each other stronger, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Olympia’s definitely going to know our story, she’s gonna know everything that happened before she got here."
After the wedding, Serena's preparation for her WTA comeback fully began in earnest. The 23-time Grand Slam champion was not only under the watchful eye of her current coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, but was also being viewed by her formative coach: her father, Richard Williams.
“My dad and I still talk about tennis," Serena said. "He is always on the court every time I go. There’s no one that loves tennis more than him. A couple of days ago when I was on the court, my dad says, ‘Keep playing like that and you’ll be No.1.’ And I was like, ‘That’s the only reason I’m playing.’”
"I’m not coming back to compete, I’m coming back to win. I want Olympia to see that her mom is pretty good at what she did."
Serena said that getting back into the day-to-day work with Mouratoglou "got real real, real fast. That’s three ‘real’s in a row." The American legend explained that "Patrick is incredibly helpful in my tennis career. He understands the madness and the insanity that goes on in my head, to do what I do at the level that I do it at."
"I’ve come back from layoffs before, and I get that the drills and the exercises and all that are important. But after a while, it gets hard to get going without the competition, without the edge, the push you get from playing someone else. I find myself wondering, ‘Where am I in my comeback?’"
So, Serena decided to play a match just before New Year's Eve against reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The reasoning was twofold. "They’ve never had a women’s event here, and I thought, ‘Out of all the stuff that I talk about in terms of helping women, this is something I should really do.’"
"It was really strictly to send a message that women can be strong, can do what you want, and you can dream big."
Then, after playing doubles with Venus in the USA's Fed Cup tie in February, Serena heavily started moving her comeback forward. "Am I back where I want to be?" Serena mused after Fed Cup. "No, not even close, and I know that. But when I look into the crowd, and my little girl is there, I want her to be proud of what her mommy’s doing. She’s what’s going to push me to get all the way back."
Big sister Venus, as usual, knew the full comeback was just a matter of time. “[Serena] has goals left, she has dreams left, so she’s gotta go for it. She can’t look in the mirror and say ‘I’m done.’ It’s not her moment.”
"Being Serena" airs every Wednesday night on HBO and HBO Go.