On February 13 2013, the Women’s Tennis Association ranked Serena Williams World No. 1.
It was the sixth time they bestowed her with that title. And she held it for 186 consecutive weeks.
It’s indisputable she’s at the top of her game in the tennis world. Especially after her spectacular win last night at the Australian Open.
Her arrival onto the world tennis stage in 1995 – when she was just 15 – ushered in a new era on the women’s professional tour: one of power, quality and significance.
She’s a success in every sporting aspect.
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.” – Serena Williams
But with success comes money. With money comes power. And with power – unfortunately – frequently comes a lack of humility.
The general rule is that with success any air of modesty is cast aside, because once you’ve ‘made it’ – once you’ve achieved mastery – why be modest? Why pretend you’re no the greatest? That’s the general rule.
Serena Williams, however, is an exception to that rule. She breaks the ‘professional sportsperson’ mould, and she does so in all the right ways.
Mia Freedman, Jessie Stephens and Monique Bowley dicuss Serena Williams’ general kick-arsery on Mamamia Out Loud. (Post continues below).
At a press conference during the US Open in 2015, Serena fielded questions from the media. Five minutes into the interview, a reporter inquired as to Serena’s noticeably dejected facial expression – because, obviously, women must smile.
“What’s wrong?”, the male reporter asked.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here…”
Serena could have dismissed.
She could have so easily responded with a simple ‘Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.’ Instead she confronted. And then went on to explain herself further…
“I want to be in bed right now… I have to wake up early to practice. I don’t really want to answer any of these questions, and you guys keep asking me the same questions.”
The questions she referred to were about her sister Venus, but that’s not the point.
She sat in front of a room of men and openly shared her sentiments about not wanting to be there. She didn’t do so with condescension; she didn’t talk down to them or storm off or insinuate she was better than them in anyway.
In a matter-of-fact tone, she opened up and shared her rawest thoughts and feelings. She did so without coming across as angry or disrespectful.
It’s a fine line to walk. And one that we can’t really explain to our young girls, without showing them real life examples.
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.” – Serena Williams
In another press conference during the Australian open this year, she proved her class once again.
Following a victory, a male reporter pointed out holes in Serena’s performance… despite her win.
"Bit of a scrappy performance, few more unforced errors, couple of double faults..."
At this point, most sportswomen and sportsmen turn to a generic answer. Some variation of 'Yeah there were a couple of errors but I got the result in the end'. Serena, however, didn't miss a beat.
"Oh I think that's a very negative thing to say, are you serious? You should've been out there... That wasn't very kind. You should apologise...do you wanna?"
She spoke from the heart: once again with integrity, honesty and nobility. Without sounding condescending, she conveyed her emotions and feelings in a respectful manner. Her voice remained calm, and unraised.
A reporter put her down in a public forum, and she called him out on it.
Time and again, she proves the worth of self-belief in the face of adversity: proves the worth of standing up for your own values in the face of those wanting to tear them down.
And we want our daughters to do the same.