There has perhaps never been a sportswoman with as many faces as Serena Williams. The world’s top earning female athlete and winner of 21 Grand
Slam singles titles – six at Wimbledon – is also a fashion designer, philanthropist and, now, muse for Beyoncé.
Last week, as the tennis player stepped on to Centre Court in the hope of winning Wimbledon for a seventh time, Queen Bey released the video for her latest single, Sorry. It features Serena in what is arguably her most surprising reinvention yet – slut-dropping in a body and heels while Beyoncé defiantly sings about Jay Z’s ‘sidechick’ – the now infamous ‘Becky with the good hair’.
‘It happened very organically,’ says Serena. ‘I didn’t know a lot about
Lemonade but I’ve known Beyoncé and the director for years. I thought
I would be a great part of the project.’
Lemonade has been interpreted as an album about Jay Z’s infidelities.
Was Serena aware that this was a theme of the record? ‘I had no idea. I only heard my song for the first time on the morning of shooting the video. All I knew was that I was doing something about being a strong woman.’
We meet at the Kensington Roof Gardens, where the annual Women’s
Tennis Association pre-Wimbledon party takes place. As news spreads that Serena has arrived, a sense of panic spreads through the building. It’s a mix of admiration and intimidation: undoubtedly part of what makes heralmost impossible to beat on court.
That unbreakable force also makes Serena the perfect poster girl for Sorry, in which Beyoncé refuses to apologise to her cheating husband for having fun without him. It’s a defiance that Serena admits she can relate to following years of criticism of her body – which has been variously accused of being either too masculine or too feminine. ‘I am not sorry for who I am,’ she says. ‘I’m not sorry about anything. I really connected to those lyrics and felt good about that.’
Besides, she adds, ‘Beyoncé is a powerful individual. She motivates
me. And obviously it was super-fun.’ Much has been made of the political turning point in Beyoncé’s career that Lemonade marks. The album addresses the depiction of African-American women and comes after the launch of the Black Lives Matter campaign and the #blackgirlmagic hashtag, a celebration of the achievements of black women.
‘Lemonade and Formation have come at a critical time in America,’ says
Serena. ‘Beyoncé wanted to push that message [of Black Lives Matter]
because it’s so important to spread it.’
And now that Serena has shown a different side of herself, she promises
that there’s more to come. She recently released a documentary, Serena, which follows her as she attempted to win all four grand slams last year. She managed three. ‘It’s me telling people the hard work I put into my career, but it’s also me being myself,’ she says. ‘People
don’t get to see that. But I am different to other tennis players. I deal with pressure, but I also have fun. I just want people to see the real me.’
And if you're in need of some motivation then look no further, as we round up Serena's most inspirational quotes below:
Serena Williams - Grazia
'Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.'
'People want more fit arms, but my arms are too fit. But I'm not complaining. They pay my bills.'
'Everyone's dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard.'
'I'm not used to crying. It's a little difficult. All my life I've had to fight. It's just another fight I'm going to have to learn how to win, that's all. I'm just going to have to keep smiling.'
'Tennis just a game, family is forever.'
'I don't have regrets. I don't live in the past. I live in the present and learn not to make the same mistakes in the future.'
'Venus told me the other day that champions don't get nervous in tight situations. That really helped me a lot. I decided I shouldn't get nervous and just do the best I can.'
'I’m really exciting. I smile a lot, I win a lot, and I’m really sexy.'
'I’ve had people look past me because the colour of my skin, I’ve had people overlook me because I was a woman, I’ve had critics say I [would] never win another Grand Slam when I was only at number seven - and here I stand today with 21 Grand Slam titles, and I’m still going...'
'I've always considered myself the best and the top. I never considered that I was out of it.'