Up Next

Serena Williams Syllabus

The words, texts and clips about the champion you should experience

I couldn’t explain what “love” is if you asked me, because I don’t watch tennis unless Serena Williams is playing, and I can’t be bothered to learn the rules. I like tennis — but I love Williams. My senior year in college, I was given an espnW/Marvel poster of a superhero Williams that holds a place of honor in my room even now. But my love affair with Williams has been lifelong. By no means am I athletic — but Williams’ strength and dominance have always been a source of inspiration for me. “Black excellence” is a relatively new phrase in my vocabulary, but I always felt it when I watched her. Enjoy the following pieces, because these writers have felt it, too.

The New York Times

The Meaning of Serena Williams

By Claudia Rankine

“There is no more exuberant winner than Serena Williams. She leaps into the air, she laughs, she grins, she pumps her fist, she points her index finger to the sky, signaling she’s No. 1. Her joy is palpable. It brings me to my feet, and I grin right back at her, as if I’ve won something, too. Perhaps I have.”


Graphite Against a Sharp White Background

Excerpt from the 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

“Serena in HD before your eyes becomes overcome by a rage you recognize and have been taught to hold at a distance for your own good. Serena’s behavior, on this particular Sunday afternoon, suggests that all the injustice she has played through all the years of her illustrious career flashes before her and she decides finally to respond to all of it with a string of invectives. Oh my God, she’s gone crazy, you say to no one.”

New York Magazine

The Unretiring Serena Williams

By Kerry Howley

“She is a 33-year-old woman who won her first major at the tail end of the previous century, a simpler era you will recall for its consequenceless Napster-facilitated intellectual-property theft and the looming threat of Y2K. By now, her shoulder should be shredded, her elbow a constant wail of hurt. Instead, she spends her days bageling 20-something moppets who have never known the game without her.”

The New York Times Magazine

Venus and Serena Against the World

By John Jeremiah Sullivan

“Because she’s usually frowning and scowling on court, or squinting and chewing the inside of her mouth, or looking bummed in the changeover chair — or finally at the end sometimes grinning and laughing maniacally — it’s easy to find yourself unprepared for her sheer prettiness, as witnessed when she’s more or less at ease, 6-foot-1 in pale designer jeans, quietly flashing the smile that made her at one time the richest woman in sports (before Maria Sharapova came along).”

ESPN/The Undefeated

Serena’s Best On-Court Fashion

By Jill Hudson

“Serena Williams is the best tennis player in the history of the sport — and the most fiercely stylish athlete of all time. Fashion is her passion; she studied design for two years and oversees two successful clothing collections with Nike and HSN. Off the court, Serena is a chameleon: sexy, demure or elegant. On the court, her body-conscious ensembles — and her history-making wins — have helped cement the tennis star’s legendary status. Slay, Miss Williams. Slay.”



Serena Williams is Unstoppable

By Melissa Harris-Perry

“I try not to be protected. Because I feel like you can become a little bit of a robot. That’s not who I am. And I don’t want to be monotone. It’s important to be yourself, whatever the cost.” — Serena Williams


Sports Illustrated

Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year

By S.L. Price

Tweet us a question or comment

Tierra R. Wilkins is an associate editor for The Undefeated. She likes to eat fries with her ketchup.