Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

I remember being a freshman in high school, trying out for the junior varsity tennis team in the spring. Did I have any experience playing tennis? No, but I did grow up watching Serena and Venus crush their competition so I thought, why not give it a try? 

My coach quickly realized I needed some one-on-one help if I were to actually compete in the coming weeks. One afternoon, as we were volleying, he got frustrated at my lack of effort and told me that I never do enough. I was complaining about how exhausting it was to run up and down the court, often dodging the balls he was hitting at me. His response was “Do you have any idea how fast Serena Williams has to run to get to the ball? Do you see how hard people hit at her? Do you think she runs from the ball?” He spoke of Serena often, using her to inspire us to work harder. She was the standard.

It just so happens that tennis wasn’t my calling, but I say this to say representation matters. When Serena first started playing tennis, there was no one who looked like us at that level. Had it not been for her father’s diligence, she might have quit early on or never picked up a racket for that matter. Luckily for me, Venus and Serena had been dominating the court since before I was born, so I never knew a world where Black women weren’t the face of tennis.

As I think about Serena’s journey, the quote “you have to be twice as good to get half of what they have” comes to mind. While the girls she was competing against were working with professional coaches at country clubs, Serena was training with her father on the less-than-optimal courts of Compton, California. Not to mention the mental stress of worrying for her own safety as well as her father’s whilst practicing in gang-occupied territory. 

Although she is often the image of strength and resilience, it’s never lost on me how unnecessarily difficult her journey has been. Whether it was forcing a smile in the face of blatant racism or advocating for herself on the court or in the hospital room, Serena was a force. She might be leaving the game, but her passion, drive and integrity will carry on.

23 Grand Slam titles (most ever won), 4 Olympic gold medals, 7 Wimbledon crowns and 319 consecutive weeks ranked as #1 in the world. Indisputably, the greatest of all time.

Serena, there are no words to encompass what you have meant to little Black girls all over the world. Because of you, we dream bigger, we aim higher, and we know to always bet on ourselves.

We wish you and your beautiful family all the best and can’t wait to see what you do.

Thank you for inspiring greatness in all of us.

Ruth Haileselassie is a Political Science-International Relations student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She works to ensure that young girls around the world have access to sexual health education and has an interest in African history.