Tennis superstar Serena Williams had a message for mothers after her loss at Wimbledon: “I was playing for you today.”
Germany’s Angelique Kerber won the finals in London on Saturday, ending Williams’ bid to win a 24th Grand Slam title and eighth Wimbledon championship.
In an interview after the game, her voice quivering, Williams told mothers that she was playing for them at Wimbledon and they can achieve whatever they want to if they choose to return to work after having a child.
Williams was one victory away from tying Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams. It was her fourth tournament since the September birth of her daughter, Olympia, which was followed by complications and more surgery.
Speaking at Wimbledon’s Centre Court after her defeat, Williams said she was happy to get as far as she did.
“It was obviously disappointing but I can’t be disappointed, I have so much to look forward to. You know I’m literally just getting started so you know I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
Asked if she was a “supermom,” Williams said she was “just me.”
“To all the moms out there, I was playing out there for you today and I tried,” Williams said. “I look forward to continuing to be back out here and do what I do best.”
In a press conference later, the tennis star said her priorities have changed since her daughter was born.
“Like my priority is my baby. You know, just being with her and doing things with her and spending time with her it’s totally my priority. But it’s weird, I set my schedule so I have time. Like I train in the morning and I spend the rest of the day with her, so I don’t get to be with her the full day but a pretty good chunk out of the day.”
Those who want to continue pursuing their career after motherhood can still do it, she said.
“I just feel like to tell all the mums, like I had such a long struggle to come back and it was really difficult and honestly I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I’m just that person, that person, that vessel that’s saying ‘you can be whatever you want to be if you want to go back to work.’ “
She talked about playing freely now that her daughter is a priority.
“And to me, after becoming a mum, I feel like there’s no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job but those that do want to go back, you know, you can just do it. You can really do it,” she said.
Alexis Ohanian, Williams’ husband, said he “couldn’t be more proud” in an Instagram post and that she was just getting started in her comeback.
“Days after our baby girl was born, I kissed my wife goodbye before surgery and neither of us knew if she would be coming back. We just wanted her to survive—10 months later, she’s in the #Wimbledon final,” he wrote.
Williams, he added, “will be holding a trophy again soon—she’s got the greatest one waiting at home for her.”
The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Williams’ good friend the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle watched from the Royal Box.
Toward the end, a reporter asked Williams how she’d turn her defeat into a happy story for her daughter.
“Well, I think it was a happy story – I’ll probably change the ending,” Williams replied dryly.