Serena Williams may not be where she wants to be right now in terms of competing on the tennis court, but she’s quite sure of where she wants to go.
Williams, 36, just four months after giving birth to her first child, is driven to win Grand Slam title No. 25 and return to the No. 1 ranking in the world.
“To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,” Williams told Vogue in an interview published Wednesday. “But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams. I’m well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on 25.”
Williams decided this past Thursday not to defend her Australian Open title, having played only an exhibition match to Jelena Ostapenko after overcoming medical issues that cropped up after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
“I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time,” Williams said in the statement.
She needs only one more major title to equal the record held by Margaret Court, who won 13 of her 24 Grand Slam titles before the Open era began in 1968.
“I remember how stressed I was about getting to Grand Slam number 18, tying Chrissie [Evert] and Martina [Navratilova],” Williams said. “I had lost every Grand Slam that year. I was in the US Open, and Patrick [Mouratoglou], my coach, said, ‘Serena, this doesn’t make sense. You’re so stressed about 18. Why not 30? Why not 40?’ For me, that clicked. I won 18, 19 and 20 right after that.
“Why would I want to stand side by side when I can stand out on my own? I think sometimes women limit themselves. I’m not sure why we think that way, but I know that we’re sometimes taught to not dream as big as men, not to believe we can be a president or a CEO, when in the same household, a male child is told he can be anything he wants. I’m so glad I had a daughter. I want to teach her that there are no limits.”
Williams revealed in the interview that she had an emergency C-section after the baby’s heart rate dropped. Williams then had a number of post-childbirth procedures after discovering several small blood clots had settled in her lungs.
It is not the first time that blood clots have caused complications for Williams. After she badly cut her foot in July 2010, a blood clot reached her lung in March 2011. The injuries kept her from competing for a year.
Williams told Vogue that her C-section incision reopened due to intense coughing spells, and that she had a filter inserted into a major vein to prevent blood clots from reaching her lungs.
“I was happy to change diapers,” her husband, Alexis Ohanian, told Vogue, “but on top of everything she was going through, the feeling of not being able to help made it even harder. Consider for a moment that your body is one of the greatest things on this planet, and you’re trapped in it.”
Williams told Vogue that motherhood has changed her, and it might help her on the court.
“Now that I’m 36 and I look at my baby, I remember that this was also one of my goals when I was little, before tennis took over, when I was still kind of a normal girl who played with dolls,” Williams said.
“And actually, I think having a baby might help. When I’m too anxious I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born. Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match. I don’t need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don’t need them. That’s a different feeling for me.”
“It’s interesting,” Williams told Vogue. “There hasn’t been a clear No. 1 since I was there. It will be cool to see if I get there again, to what I call my spot — where I feel I belong. I don’t play to be the second best or the third best. If there’s no clear No. 1, it’s like, yeah, I can get my spot back. But if there is a clear No. 1, that’s cool, too, because it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna come for you.”
Williams said she knows she is on the back side of her career, but warns opponents that that will not be an advantage for them.
“… I’ve been playing tennis since before my memories started,” Williams told Vogue. “At my age, I see the finish line. And when you see the finish line, you don’t slow down. You speed up.”