Tennis superstar Serena Williams spoke about how tournament organisers still shied away from allocating more main court matches to women players and how she has tried to change that by offering to make way, in an Instagram interview with actor Natalie Portman.
Williams, along with her husband and infant daughter, is among the group of celebrities who has founded a new National Women’s Soccer League team based in Los Angeles. The “majority woman-founded group” is led by Portman and is backed by US football stars Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy and Lauren Holiday as well as actord Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, America Ferrera and Uzo Aduba.
The two of them spoke about the place of women in sport and the efforts they were making to ensure a more level playing field.
“I think that’s really cool for athletes to own something. It’s interesting, because you have a different type of pride when you’re there and you’re playing for something that you own. It’s not really done in tennis, so it’s really interesting to have an opportunity to do that in a different sport. It would be a wonderful feeling to have that. You want to play better, to play harder - not only are you playing me, you’re playing me in my stadium,” Williams said in the Instagram chat hosted on her business page ‘Serena’.
Speaking about the situation in tennis, the 38-year-old spoke about how few female players were given a chance to play on the big courts.
“I’ll look at the schedule and there’s four men’s matches and then two women’s matches and then I feel bad, because I’m always one of those women. I literally have said just put me on the second court, so we can have other players have an opportunity on centre court.
“Obviously that doesn’t go well in the timings, and they’re like, ‘No, no, no. You need be on centre court,’ and I’m like, ‘These other women need a chance and they deserve it, they’ve been working literally their whole lives to have this opportunity,” she added.
“Every year I come back to the same tournaments and I come back with the same arguments. They expect me, so when are we going to make those changes?”
The tennis star also spoke about how it was her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who pushed for the investment in women’s football, especially after the US won another Fifa World Cup title last year.
“My husband told me first about it. At last year’s Wimbledon, he said that he was thinking about this,” Williams revealed. “We were watching the World Cup and the women’s soccer team, they’ve been dominant... and I’ve been watching them for a really long time since Mia Hamm was playing. There have been so many generations,” she said.
Watch the full chat here