Serena Williams says she has been ‘underpaid and undervalued’ for her entire career in a revealing interview following her shock withdrawal from the French Open.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner spoke about the obstacles she had faced in her rise to the top of the tennis world, reflecting in particular on the challenges faced by people of colour.
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With the sporting world dealing with the twin challenges of the coronavirus and the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial discrimination in the United States, Williams said it had been frustrating to see people coming around to her point of view about the discrimination faced by the black community despite trying to draw attention to it for years.
“Now, we as Black people have a voice,” Williams told British Vogue.
“At the end of May, I had so many people who were white writing to me saying, ‘I’m sorry for everything you’ve had to go through’.
“I think for a minute they started — not to understand, because I don’t think you can understand — but they started to see.
“I was like, ‘Well, you didn’t see any of this before? I’ve been talking about this my whole career. It’s been one thing after another’.”
In the Vogue interview, Williams also reflected on her own image and the way she believed she had been perceived and treated in the years since her professional tennis debut in the mid-1990s as a teenager.
Asked about how she felt she had been treated, the 39-year-old was blunt.
“Underpaid, undervalued,” she said.
“(But) I’ve never been a person that has been like, ‘I want to be a different colour’ or, ‘I want my skin tone to be lighter’.
“I like who I am, I like how I look, and I love representing the beautiful, dark women out there. For me, it’s perfect. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Serena Williams withdrawal shocks French Open
Serena Williams stunned the tennis world on Wednesday night after withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match.
Williams announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros less than an hour before her clash with Tsvetana Pironkova, citing a recurrence of an Achilles injury she suffered at the US Open.
The shock announcement means the American’s bid for a 24th grand slam title suffered another blow and sparked further doubts over the 39-year-old’s long-term future in the sport.
Williams, a three-time champion in Paris, had arrived at the tournament carrying the Achilles tendon injury from a gruelling US Open semi-final defeat to Victoria Azarenka.
“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams.
“I was struggling to walk and that is a tell-tale sign that I should try to recover.”
The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.
“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” said Williams, the Roland Garros champion in 2002, 2013 and 2015.
“It's more than likely that I won’t play another tournament this year.”
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