INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Though she didn't win the title, it might have been the biggest story of the fortnight - Serena Williams making a long-awaited and emotional return to Indian Wells, and a very successful one too, going all the way to the semifinals before having to withdraw with a knee injury.
The World No.1 was asked after winning her opening match how big this comeback was for her.
"It falls super high up. Definitely up there. Really close," Williams said after her first match. "Probably the best. I feel like I've already won this tournament. I don't feel like I have to actually hold the trophy at the end of this. I feel like I'm already holding up a trophy. I have never felt that way before."
And will Williams be back next year? "I think it's going to be a must," she replied.
Earlier this week, as part of the #PowerToInspire campaign, we asked you to tell us in 100 words or less how Williams inspires you. We thank you for all of your submissions - here are 30 of them!
Serena is so much more than an inspiration, she's a legend, a great champion, a fighter, but most of all a great person. She has gone through multiple tribulations in her life, yet, she didn't let them break her, she stood up to them and beat them like a champion does. Through pain and tears she was the winner at the end. Serena's mental strength and never give up attitude are unmatched. She has been one of my grestest inspirations in recent years, she showed me that I can when I didn't believe I could. I understood that I am not a loser when I fall in my fight, I am a loser when I give up the fight. Serena, thank you for inspiring me to stand up to hardships and believe in a better tomorrow. Not everything has to beat us down, we can still win if we fight.
~ Renata, UK
Serena Williams is not just a name, she's a phenomenon. I've been watching her play for long, long time and she is still POWERFUL. She is the epitome of Strength, Endurance, esilience, Excellence, Niche-breaker and Absolute brilliance. Well, that's SERENA. She has been through the thicks and thins of life but never has she backed down, instead she has bounced back more strongly and that INSPIRES me. Serena, you inspire me. I wish she could play forever.
~ Shreya, Nepal
Serena Williams is the epitome of class, grace and beauty. No one gives her credit for her mental prowess as well as her guile and determination to be and give her best. She is a true champion of a sport and community that has benefited from her many gifts. I admire her for her will to keep going even when faced with such difficult odds and circumstances that many would not have been able to handle. She has accomplished and received many accolades but still remains humble. She inspires me to work harder even when people tell you it can't be done. Like Serena I know that #NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE! Thank You Serena, you gave me the courage to believe in myself and my gifts #PowerToInspire
~ Lyndrea, USA
Serena Williams shows that there is more than one path in life. She has struggled, fought and persevered and shown that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Serena is the epitome of what it means to be a champion.
Queen Serena inspires the world
Such a strong young woman
From a fragile little girl
Despite the odds against her
She decided to stay on track
Giving it her all
Winning titles back to back
19-time Grand Slam champion
And she will not stop there
Underestimate her if you like
Count her out if you dare
The constant yell of "come on"
Will truly rule the day
Overpowering any opponent
Standing in her way
A legend is appropriate
A queen is very kind
But if we call it like we see her
It's the greatest of all time
I have watched Serena's evolution from a very young teenage girl who took the tennis world by storm, along with her sister Venus, to a mature, thoughtful and courageous young woman, and an awe inspiring tennis champion. Her return to Indian Wells this year is truly a measure of her growth as a human being. That act itself says that she is now operating at a higher level of consciousness, and is truly aware that the pain of that incident can no longer affect her. I tip my hat to her.
~ Valerie J
Nothing has ever come easily to Serena Williams. That her father had the vision for his two daughters to focus on their potential talent and athleticism was an inspired idea. She has gone from a girl from the Compton projects in California to a multimillionaire on her athletic prowess. She has extraordinary tenacity both in life and especially on the tennis courts. She has never been given anything, for everything she has she has earned the hard way. She has dug deep inside and made herself the greatest women's tennis player who ever lived. If that's not inspirational, what is?
Every time I watch Serena, I'm sure that I have witnessed something special. Not everyone has had a chance to live in the times of the greatest champion in history of tennis. Serena inspires me with her peace, will to fight and cool mind in the most crucial moments. Only she is able to deal with the immense pressure and achieve 19 Grand Slam titles! When there are situations where I want to give up, I always think about Serena and know that she never gives up. She always serves aces so I know I can also serve "an ace" and win every battle.
~ Karolina, Poland
Serena is a woman of virtue, she's classy, professional, and most of all she's human. She is a woman of great courage and integrity, and a role model for so many people, both women and men.
Serena Williams has inspired me throughout my life. I have watched Serena dominate tennis for over 15 years, and her ability to compete and win inspires me. Serena Williams has an incredible will to overcome all adversity, and she has inspired me to be a stronger person. The fact that Serena is still at the top of the game is a testament to everyone that "there is nothing that can stop us from achieving our dreams." Serena, you have inspired me to keep on fighting, to keep on trying, to set goals so high that I will always exceed my expectations. Thanks for everything Serena.
I feel truly lucky to be part of a generation that is able to witness something as special as the tennis career of Serena Williams. She has redefined our ideas of dominance in not only tennis, but in women's sport on a world stage. She has brought a new life of intensity, passion, and hunger to the game. Serena has broken boundaries, inspired millions, and continues to add record breaking performaces to her illustrious legacy. But despite all the fame, fortune, and success one could ever hope for, she continues to sacrifice so much, and to play with an unparalleled level of motivation and hunger to be better.
Serena Williams is the main reason I started watching tennis, after I saw her play in the final at Wimbledon in 2012. Since then, I have been addicted to tennis. I can't think of another person on this planet with the drive she has, having gone through some of the biggest controversies in sports history. Serena Williams IS power and she has shown me that you can achieve anything if you have the determination and drive. Thank you for giving me something to believe in, that you can achieve greatness in life with hard work :)
S - Sincere
E - Empathetic
R - Radiant
E - Empowering
N - Noble
A - Astounding?
~ Noel, South Africa
In my opinion Serena Williams is pound for pound one of the greatest athletes I'll ever witness. She's mastered the ability to overcome... Failures, injuries, setbacks, personal tragedies, success, accomplishments, disappointments and much more, all to reach her full potential and the scary thing is, she hasn't yet!
When it seems like the entire world around you is against you, it's easy for one to start self-hating, self-doubting; quitting and giving up seems easy then. The story of Serena Williams is not only a story of great success, but also of great perseverance. Throughout the years, Serena has endured the close scrutiny of others, that sometimes has shown the worst of humanity, while having to continue on fulfilling her dreams as a tennis player. She has taught us that from our own personal struggles can come the power to inspire those who may find themselves in similar circumstances.
Serena Williams is the one who inspires not only me but everyone else. She taught us that it's okay to have are falls because this will teach us how to stand up and try and try until you reach your success and reach your dream. She is a person who shows that even the best strive for more. Serena is a strong, loving, and an awe-inspiring person. She is truly a great champion and a model for all the people out there. But one thing that really made her special is the way she accepts and faces her greatest nightmares and tries to change them to a wonderful dream. Her return in Indian Wells teaches us that in order to become a better person we should overcome our negatives, our mistakes, and our fears. To become a better person is to stand up and open the window which will bring light to the darkness in your life. Serena Williams, my idol and my champion, has the power to inspire =))
Serena inspires me because she has the will and mentality of never giving up. Through illness and injury she always seems to make it out on top and inspires me to never give up in what I'm doing.
Serena inspires me with her never give up attitude and her sheer will to win. The fire she exudes on court is inspirational in and of itself because it just makes me want to be passionate about something. I can't help but root for her every time she steps on court. She just gives it her all every time and that is the mark of a true champion. She inspires me every time I watch her play.
What can't be said about this amazing champion? Serena Williams is my inspiration because she's demonstrated great courage, integrity, and professionalism throughout her career. She and Venus are excellent examples of how to lead a long and successful tennis career. They broke down barriers, with V leading the way. Serena soon came into her own, and didn't become overwhelmed or absorbed in the limelight but always respected her roots. When I look back at the footage of how she conducted herself at 2001 Indian Wells, I'm blown away: such class, and grace. I don't know if I could have kept my calm. It was like watching a lion roar. Watching how she battles through matches motivates me when I'm playing tennis or struggling with sorrows in life. I'm reminded to stay the course and believe in myself. There are many that misunderstand her, but I'm TEAM Serena now and forever. Thanks for what you've done and will continue to do for this great sport and people around the world.
~ Ron, USA
Serena busted into the women's tennis blogosphere by being a brassy young teenager, with no holds barred.... She waltzed her way into the 1999 US Open and has remained a force since then. In comparing her to other greats of the sport we should note that she played Steffi, Seles, Hingis, Henin, Clijsters, Capriati, Davenport, Dementieva, Kutznetsova and many others and proved she can be there by winning 19 Grand Slam singles titles. Her longevity should be admired (20 years on tour). To finally erase her demons of Indian wells, she decided to forgive and play after 14 years... #IAmInspired definitely.
Serena's fighting spirit on the court and her humility outside the court is what inspires me. #Rena's Army forever.
~ Evelyn, Northern Ireland
Through illness and personal tragedy, she continues to battle on to become the best at what she does. From the streets of Compton to the courts at Wimbledon, she shows us that what the mind can see can be truly achieved! We are fortunate to live in the era where she continues to inspire all with her passion for play, passion for works of charity, and a love of all that makes her a legend for the ages.
~ Ted, USA
Serena inspires me to be my best. Her mental toughness is unmatched not only during tennis matches but also in her ability to battle through hardships in her life to keep moving forward. I often look to Serena's influence when im having a tough time in my life and wonder to myself, "How would Serena handle this? What would she do?" Those questions alone keep me from breaking at the sign of defeat, inspiring me to battle back from "0-5 in the first set to not only win the set, but the match". Her importance to the world is unprecedented.
Serena Williams is not only an inspiration to the African American community but to the entire universe. Williams had a dream and a racquet and pursued her destiny. She continues to shape and change the game of women's tennis. With four Olympic gold medals and 19 Grand Slam singles titles, Queen "Rena" has proven that if you truly put your heart and soul into something anything is possible. Being an African American male, Serena's undying passion has proven time and time again to me that there is light at the end of the tunnel to make our dreams come true.
Serena Williams has inspired me in so many ways. In 2007, I moved from Oak Park, Illinois to Gilbert, Arizona in search of a better life. I was so inspired with her comeback at the Australian Open. I DVR all of her matches. When I am feeling down, I play one of her winning matches. In 2015, after watching her Australian Open win, I branched out to get started with my photography business one more time. I wanted to see her so badly in Indian Wells, but after driving almost four hours, we learned that her match was sold out. We did what most people do - we enjoyed the atmosphere and drove back to Gilbert, Arizona. I am currently 56 years of old. She can inspire anyone.
Serena Williams is a legend of courage, an icon of inspiration. When I am down and out, I remember her life, which inspires me to get out there, work harder and never give up.
~ Sunil, India
Serena Williams I personally think is the greatest women's tennis player of all time. She has proven again and again that when she plays well she is the best, and I think it's inspiring that an African-American woman, like I am, and who is from Compton, has risen above all and become the MOST dominant athlete of her sport. This I think goes to show that anyone, no matter who or what you are, can become successful in what they love and want to achieve. She is inspiring, a role model and good ambassadress for the sport... Always intruging and FUN to watch...Hail queen of tennis!
I've loved Serena since the moment I saw her play, mainly because of her unrelenting passion for the game. Seeing her win tournaments (i.e. Aussie Open 2007) when no one else believes in her is an honor to watch and inspires me to play with the same love for the game as she does. The most inspiring quality of Serena to me is her ability to summon her best tennis when her back is against the wall, as it inspires me to dig deep on the days when I am not feeling my best. Thank you for being you Serena!
There are several reasons Serena Williams inspires me. She's:
Innovative - Raised the level of women's tennis and changed the game; prime time television.
Nonconforming - Her outfits; not playing junior tennis; continues to play tennis and not retire.
Spiritual - Always thanks her Jehovah.
Philanthropy - Gives back. Builds schools. Her foundation gives hope to the under privileged.
Intellect - Speaks several languages. Decisive with her on-court decisions; smart business woman.
Resilient - Never gives up. Exudes mental toughness. Comes from behind and wins.
Excellence - Surpasses the standard with 19 singles, 13 doubles, and 2 mixed doubles Grand Slams.
She's an exceptional woman in so many ways - both on and off the court. As a fan, she really draws you in and you can't help but get behind her and when she wins, you feel like a winner too. Her tennis is of course glorious, but that's obvious.
Serena inspires me because she is an awesome athlete; focused, believes in herself, and is not satisfied with the status quo. She has a keen insight of inner-self and strong constitution to seek out her true north. Serena inspires me more now than in the beginning, because she now recognizes the need to embrace and engage more and has a better understanding of forgiveness. Outside of sports, Serena inspires me with her talent and sense for business, she has many balls rolling and is still able to balance and demonstrate greatness on the tennis court. She is not an overnight sensation; her success happened because she worked hard and her trust and faith helped her to get to where she is today. She inspires me to believe in something that is bigger and more powerful than any of us. Most importantly, Serena inspires me because she saw the opportunity to turn a horrible situation into something that would change memories for her and the betterment of the world and influence positive change by collaborating with the Equal Justice Initiative. I liked it when she said, "some little girl may be watching." What better example to set to show that forgiveness is freedom of the soul as quoted by Nelson Mandela. Serena is a success story! That is inspiration in itself.