Serena Williams ‘paved the way’ for mothers to keep playing tennis, says Martina Navratilova Read more
On the day after her 34th birthday, Serena Williams had an extra-long day. She made her way to St. John Arena in her native Melbourne, where she was introduced as an honorary Australian Open champion. In her first-ever appearance in the United States, she began with a group of reporters at the Rod Laver Arena, located on the campus of the University of Virginia. She was there from 3 to 6 p.m. and answered questions, which swelled to almost 200, from her two children, her sister Martina Navarro and Williams’ fiancé Alexis Ohanian. She appeared in a short film that explained her decision to retire from tennis and the ways in which her career had influenced other women.
As the afternoon wore on, the focus turned from Williams to the athletes in her presence. A group of former athletes, coaches and family members came to introduce their children to her. There were no tears shed. There were only smiles and hugs. Williams was the star of the day. She was the reason for the moment. “I was here for two hours because I have a lot of things to say,” she told Williams in her first public interview in nearly three years, “but I have a lot of things to say.”
The most important of her many things to say was that she would return to the sport she loved for the first time in seven years to play a singles match. The match was scheduled for 12 February, the day after Serena’s first-ever US Open victory. Her first-round opponent was Sofia Kenin, then ranked as high as 26th in the world, who would lose to Williams in the first round of the 2014 US Open. Now she was going to win again.
This time, with her opponent the defending champion, she knew she would have to win to qualify for the French Open. It would be her first appearance at Roland Garros, a tournament that has been held every year since 1900, without a Serena Williams in