Serena Williams is Back on Top

Serena Williams is Back on Top

The first lady of tennis was down, but never out. Glenn Minnis examines the triumphs, tragedies and resurgence of Compton's golden girl

by Glenn Minnis, July 10, 2012

Serena Williams is Back on Top

Serena Williams wins Wimbledon.

Photo courtesy of Julian Finney, Getty Images

was really outgoing and now it’s a little more conservative. We’re still trying to pick up that aspect of being really fun for everyone.”

Williams’ voice rises to a similar pitch and crescendo when she speaks of plans of penning her own script and casting herself as her own leading lady. “I’ve always felt I would make for a great super woman,” she said. “I feel I have both the inner and outer strength to pull it off. And yeah, I definitely think most people would agree I have the body for it.”

And with that, Serena Williams may well have much of her would-be audience at hello. Just ask yourself, has the physique of any other athlete on the history of the planet ever been more a subject of such widespread, across-the-board consternation?

Such issues progressed--- or shall we say digressed---to the point of absurdity back in late 2010 when Fox News columnist Jason Whitlock torched Williams with the scathing indictment: “Serena Williams is an underachiever.  "She'd rather eat, half-ass her way through non-major tournaments and complain she’s not getting the respect her championship resume demands.”

The tirade was indeed enough to capture Williams’ undivided attention. Enough to rail her in to action, convince her to… well, say yes to posing semi-nude for ESPN’s inaugural “Body Issue.” “Doing the ESPN shoot was my way of saying ‘this is me’ to all my fans and other young females out there,” said Williams, who joined the likes of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson for the covers.

”I love my body, my curves, my hips, giant boobs and tush,” she added. “There’s this crazy notion that I don’t work out really hard or regularly because I have huge figures. I’ve been called a cow, mocked as fat, and a loser. If I didn’t eat at all or stayed in the gym all day and night, I’m never going to be a size two. I feel I’m the woman I was born to be.”

Much of that confidence stems from the nurturing and inseparable relationship she’s always shared with older sister Venus. “She’s always been my hero,” she said of her Venus. “She’s always cast a big shadow. So much so that in her 2009 autobiography Queen of the Court, Serena recalls how when they were younger and the family would go out to ear her mother would make her order first--- just so she wouldn’t automatically chose to have whatever Venus was having. 

“It was always Venus this and Venus that, and mom wanted me to learn to speak my mind,” she said. “Venus has always been my protector.” Even now, Williams insist, it’s her mother who always seems the most vociferous when tough decisions or times come their way.

“People think my dad’s the tough one because he can be so outspoken, but he’s a sweetheart,” she said. “Mom, she has no problem sitting you down and giving you the business when she feels she needs to.”

None of that is to say Serena Williams hasn’t come to know her own share of heartache and anguish. Just a year ago, she lay bedridden after badly cutting her foot during a restaurant accident where she wearing sandals. As she sought to recuperate, doctors discovered that life-threatening blood clots were forming on her lungs and she was later diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism that caused her to suffer severe breathing difficulties.

So stacked were the odds against arguably the most dominant figure in the history of women’s sports that doctors weren’t even sure she would survive, let alone ever play again

"I was literally on my deathbed at one point," sighed a teary-eyed Williams. “I didn’t know what to expect ... I’ve never been so afraid in all my life. I’ve learned this really isn’t a matter of life and death ... I know what that really feels like.”

Even now, heartbroken enough by relationship failures to proclaim “I have given up on dating. It just hasn’t worked out well for me,” Williams strives to keep it all in perspective. While scuttlebutt has it that the  relationship which has left her so jaded stems from her breakup with rap star Common, such speculation misses the larger point of her growth in deciding to simply live life one day at a time.

“Life is a journey, something that’s always changing and evolving,” said Williams. “You just have to be strong in your faith, strong in your convictions and strong in your resolve to know things will work themselves out,” she added. “That what life has taught me. Sometimes all you’re left with is your faith.”

Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune

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