Serena Williams: 5 fierce feminists who 'encourage me to do better'

Paulina Cachero

There's a new way to spell Serena Williams' name: It's G.O.A.T.

Just 10 months after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., the tennis icon is crushing her competitors on the court at Wimbledon.

What's even more satisfying about this winning streak? The icon left the sport ranked No. 1 in the world to give birth to her daughter last summer. And after enduring a life-threatening pregnancy and taking time off to be with her family, she returned to the French Open only to have officials drop her ranking to—wait for it—No. 453.

To the surprise of no one, an outpouring of support for Williams and cries of discrimination came down as fast as Williams' serve. In an interview with Good Morning America, Williams explained the implicit sexism in the ruling that resulted in her low standing. "Unfortunately, in the '90s they changed the rule whereas if you were injured [and] then you came back, you lose your seeding," said Williams, who has won more Grand Slam titles than any man or woman in history. "They never took into account women that left No. 1 and left not for an injury, but to have a great life."

But once again Williams changed the game. Tennis officials reversed their rules and granted Williams the 25th seed at Wimbledon. The U.S. Open also announced they will take maternity leave in consideration when seeding players.

Williams has a long history of championing women on and off the court. She has spoken out against community violence alongside her sister, Venus Williams, and she also fights for domestic abuse victims by advocating for equal pay as a way to give women financial independence to start a new life.

Her key to breaking down barriers is simple: She credits a village of kick-ass women for lifting her up and she wants to do the same for others. Here, the tennis champ talks about all the fierce feminists who championed her.

Billie Jean King and Chris Evert

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01:  Professional tennis players Billie Jean King and Chris Evert  (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Professional tennis players Billie Jean King and Chris Evert (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

"One woman that has been really influential to me, obviously, has been Billie Jean King. She just really took pride in what she did and what she does— and also Chris Evert. They're really just women who go above and beyond... They were such great champions and they encouraged me to do better than them."

Big Sister, Venus Williams

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 03: Venus Williams (R) and Serena Williams (L) of the USA in action against Andreja Klepac (not seen) of Slovenia and Maria Jose Martinez (not seen) Sanchez of Spain during during their ladies doubles fourth round match  at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, France on June 03, 2018. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 03: Venus Williams (R) and Serena Williams (L) of the USA in action against Andreja Klepac (not seen) of Slovenia and Maria Jose Martinez (not seen) Sanchez of Spain during during their ladies doubles fourth round match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, France on June 03, 2018. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

"Growing up with Venus when we were really young, she would always protect me. And going forward to tennis, college, and life she's just always there."

Her Mom, Oracene Price

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 08:  Serena Williams of USA and mother, Oracene Price pose with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophy in front of the Eiffel Tower after her win over Maria Sharapova of Russia in the Women's Singles final during Day Fourteen at Roland Garros on June 8, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 08: Serena Williams of USA and mother, Oracene Price pose with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophy in front of the Eiffel Tower after her win over Maria Sharapova of Russia in the Women's Singles final during Day Fourteen at Roland Garros on June 8, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"I've always appreciated my mom, but I never appreciated and loved my mom on the level I do now because I have a daughter. So it just changed my life. It made me realize all the sacrifices my mom made. She was the ultimate mom. If it wasn't for my mom I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be Serena Williams. If I could just do half of what she did for me, for my daughter, it would be beyond anything I could ever dream of."

 

Her Daughter, Alexis Ohanian

ASHEVILLE, NC - FEBRUARY 10: Serena Williams of Team USA, bottom left, along with her husband Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Alexis Olympia, center, watch the action during the first round of the 2018 Fed Cup at US Cellular Center on February 10, 2018 in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shiro/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
ASHEVILLE, NC - FEBRUARY 10: Serena Williams of Team USA, bottom left, along with her husband Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Alexis Olympia, center, watch the action during the first round of the 2018 Fed Cup at US Cellular Center on February 10, 2018 in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shiro/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"I think sometimes women limit themselves. I'm not sure why we think that way, but I know that we're sometimes taught to not dream as big as men, not to believe we can be a president or a CEO, when in the same household, a male child is told he can be anything he wants. I'm so glad I had a daughter. I want to teach her that there are no limits," Williams told Vogue.

Watch the Serena Williams' full MAKERS profile here.