Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Serena Williams on why pressure is a privilege

The tennis champion talks to us about inclusivity ahead of her match against sister Venus Williams in Abu Dhabi

Sisters: Serena Williams, right, and Venus Williams. Getty Images
Sisters: Serena Williams, right, and Venus Williams. Getty Images

One of the highlights of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC), which kicks off on Thursday, December 27, will be Serena Williams playing against her sister, Venus Williams, in an exhibition match. Serena played French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko at the event last year, which was the first time the tournament introduced women's tennis to the line-up.

Ahead of the match, Serena Williams speaks to The National about the evolving role of women in the field, her eponymous fashion label and facing her sister on court.

How do you balance on-court rivalry with your sister Venus, and still maintain a normal sibling relationship?

It is never easy playing your best friend … she really knows my game inside out, and has been so successful over me so many times. She is my role model, sister and best friend all rolled up in one, but as I’ve said before, she really brings out the best in me.

What drives you at this point in your career and how do you handle the pressure that comes with being a top-class athlete?

There is always a goal. It is not about setting goals to beat; it’s just about, for me, doing something that I completely love. That is what keeps me motivated. Pressure is never easy. But I have learnt that it is a privilege, and I would much rather have the pressure that comes along with the privilege than not have any pressure at all.

The WTA has announced that it will offer greater rankings protection to mothers returning to the tour. Having been unseeded for some events, what are your thoughts on this ruling?

It is amazing to know that by speaking out I can use my voice to help others. I am so happy that the WTA created this new rule. Women should be able to have families and still work, not only in tennis but everywhere.

Serena with her daughter Olympia and husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian:

Is there greater equality in the sport since you started playing?

Of course. Time changes all things. There is still a way to go, but so many pioneers before me have been able to make a lot of changes and pave the way for players like me.

The Williams sisters in Abu Dhabi

The Williams sisters are two of the most powerful sportswomen in the world today. Older sibling Venus, who will be making her MWTC debut tomorrow, is a seven-time Grand Slam champion and has won four Olympic gold medals, while 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena was voted Women’s Tennis Association’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 following the birth of her daughter in September last year. She is, undoubtedly, one of the world's greatest athletes of all time.

According to Vickie Gunnarsson, event director at MWTC: "Having the most powerful sisters in the game come down and play means a lot to us. Not only does it make for an exciting match, but it also helps pave the way towards promoting women in sports even further in the region. Serena and Venus Williams are iconic names in tennis, and their collective efforts have encouraged countless young girls to pursue a sporting career.”

Tickets to MWTC cost from Dh100, and are available on www.ticketmaster.ae, by calling 800 86 823 and all Virgin Megastores in the UAE


Read more:

Hasn't Serena Williams earned the right to wear whatever she wants?

How I came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon: Kevin Anderson on his biggest win in 2018

Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Complete player guide as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams head to Abu Dhabi


Updated: December 26, 2018 07:38 PM