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The inspiration that keeps Serena Williams going as a mom and athlete

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Serena Williams & daugther

“Just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you kind of close your eyes and go for it… That’s just what we do.”

When Serena Williams gets run down by the demands of work and being a mom, she thinks of someone whose strength inspires her to keep going.

You: the average working mom.

“I think of what they do literally every single day to support their family and to be a rock for their family,” she told TODAY Parents in an exclusive interview. “And it helps me keep going. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think that women are just really amazing.”

Serena Williams and black

While Williams’ schedule is demanding as an elite professional athlete, the 38-year-old mom of Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. realizes she’s lucky to be able to make her own schedule and have a lot of flexibility around competitions.

“We’re strong. We keep going and wake up the next day and smile like nothing ever happened. That’s just what we do.”

“I don’t know how moms do it,” she said. “I work a lot, and I can’t imagine working a full day like most working women and then go back to their babies. I’m fortunate enough that I have days off, and I get to make my schedule and then can spend the rest of the day with her. And that’s still hard.”

Being vulnerable versus strong

Williams acknowledged she struggled with being a working mom during this year’s Australian Open, a tournament she’s won seven times, but lost in the third round this time.

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian

“The hardest part is walking out of the house while she’s crying because she wants to be with me. It’s very hard and makes me vulnerable and upset,” she said. “Even in Australia, my heart was aching when I left the door.”

Williams is a role model to many — Renee Zellweger called the tennis star a hero during her Best Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars earlier this month. But when it comes to balancing motherhood and work, Williams said she’s like every other mom. “You just have to keep going,” she said. “Just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you kind of close your eyes and go for it. We’re strong. We keep going and wake up the next day and smile like nothing ever happened. That’s just what we do.”

Serena Williams and crew

“I want to be a real leader and fight for women’s equality.”

The mom of one has been candid about her motherhood journey, opening up about her difficult delivery and battles with mom guilt. But it was the vulnerability of motherhood that surprised her the most.

“As an athlete, you can’t be vulnerable. You have to be strong,” Williams told TODAY Parents. “As a mom, you’re completely vulnerable to everything. And that’s what makes it scary.”

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Superheroes only. @olympiaohanian

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Serena Williams’ daughter loves… soccer

Since becoming a mom, Williams has openly struggled with consistently staying on top of her game. She lost her first Fed Cup singles match after an undefeated streak since 1999 and just won her first title in January at the ASB Classic after a three-year drought. While there’s no indication that Williams has plans to retire from tennis, she is working on supporting the next generation of female athletes, starting with her daughter.

“She is into sports,” said Williams. “Unfortunately, she’s into soccer. I got really jealous and gave her a little Wilson tennis racket. But she prefers a soccer ball, and that’s OK.”

The sports icon has partnered with Secret Deodorant as a paid brand ambassador, and is working on the brand’s study on gender inequality in sport.

“Sports changed my life, and (Olympia) is into sports. So, this partnership means even more to me,” said Williams. “Women in sports stay more focused and have more confidence. But, having a daughter, I know that she may potentially face these problems (of inequality). That’s why I want to take it head-on now. I’m in a part of my life where that’s something that I really want to talk about. I want to be a real leader and fight for women’s equality.”

She added, “Things don’t change overnight. It takes generations. So hopefully she might be preaching this message one day along with me. But at the end of the day, it’s really about making it better for each generation.”


Serena Williams sends message to Kim Clijsters after ‘phenomenal’ return

Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters
Serena Williams has thrown her support behind Kim Clijsters’ tennis comeback.

The former World No.1 made her professional comeback earlier this week at the WTA event in Dubai – her first match in just over eight years.

Despite going down in straight sets to Garbine Muguruza, Clijsters’ return was hailed as ‘phenomenal’.

Among those cheering for her return was tennis great Serena Williams, who took to social media to declare Clijsters was an inspiration.

“Seriously so so so proud of Kim Clijsters,” Williams tweeted.

“You inspire me. Wow.

“Just wow congrats you did amazing.”

Williams is chasing a record 25th grand slam victory in 2020, which would be her first since the birth of her daughter 2017.

The 36-year-old Clijsters said she felt good after her match against Muguruza.

“I had a good feeling out there, I felt a pace I can handle. I felt like I was able to go toe-to-toe with her from the baseline,” said Clijsters.

Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters

“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have that belief somehow.

It might take 10 matches to get the way I played in the second set, might take me 10 matches to get that from start to finish.

“I have patience. I’m going to work my way into it and fight. We’ll see what happens.”

Clijsters opponent pays respect to returning champ

Two-time grand slam winner Muguruza meanwhile will play one of Veronika Kudermetova and Dayana Yastremska in the next round after having to fight off a determined Clijsters in a tight second set following a simple first.

“I’ve seen her play when I started on the tour, she’s an incredible player,” Muguruza said of Clijsters.

“I was excited to be the first (opponent of the comeback). She played very well, especially in the second set.

“At the end. It was very tight. It was a fun match to play.

“I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure she give me a lot of trouble. She played really well after all these years (away).”

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