Serena Williams stuns on cover of New York mag, discusses childhood, racism and US Open

Tennis superstar shares career lessons and the values instilled by her father.

Yesha Callahan/The Root | 8/10/2015, 3:20 p.m.
Tennis superstar shares career lessons and the values instilled by her father.
Serena Williams (Photo: New York Magazine/Norma Jean Roy)

Serena Williams stuns on cover of New York mag, discusses childhood, racism and US Open

This has been Serena Williams’ year, and later this month, the greatest athlete of our time will attempt to capture the grand slam when she competes at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens, N.Y. For the Aug. 10-23 issue of New York magazine, Williams stuns on the cover and discusses how her father had a huge impact on her life.

Williams said her dad, Richard, instilled in her and her sisters the motto, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And as a child, she said she was made to keep a journal that included goals and accomplishments. One of those was to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four major tennis titles in one calendar year.

Serena Williams Tweet

Serena Williams Tweet

Williams also spoke about how she deals with the everyday racism she faces as a black athlete. Williams has been called everything from a man to her and sister Venus being referred to as the “Williams brothers,” but she’s learned not to let it get to her.

“I don’t think about it,” she says. “I don’t dwell in the past. If I do, I’ll be swallowed up by negativity. As Mandela once said, ‘I will be in a mental prison.’”

As Williams prepares for the U.S. Open, she only has one thing on her mind.

“I have to go into New York thinking, ‘Listen, I want to win the U.S. Open. I want to defend my title,’” Williams stated.

“Hopefully, people will be cheering me on to, like, push me over the edge, give me that extra strength I need to go for this historic moment,” she said.

(Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.)