Serena Williams said on Tuesday that she has become a student of the Bible during the long lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and believes that the book holds the key to achieving racial justice.
“A lot of my time off, I’ve been studying the Bible,’ Williams said in a Zoom call shortly after she made a successful debut in her first WTA event since the game shut down in mid-March because of COVID-19. “And I feel like the main thing is really believing in God’s kingdom. Personally, I think after, well, over 400 years of having Black people treated a certain way, to expect change — and it hasn’t happened in that long — I feel like it’s going to take a long time. Ultimately I think the only thing that can fix it is what I believe.”
Williams was also asked to comment on diversity in leadership positions in the business and sports world, responding, “Diversity in anything is really important, especially at the top level. It’s one thing to say we have diversity and another to say we have diversity at the [decision-making level]. If that’s not happening and we have just one group that looks the same making the decisions, the results will be the same.”
However, Williams said she had no interest in running for office or taking on the role of a decision-maker in a group setting. “Not for me,” she said, “[That’s] definitely not for me, no thanks.”
Williams, who had last played 185 days ago (Feb. 8) in a Fed Cup qualifying match, showed that her decision-making skills — along with her knack for surviving perilous tennis situations — is intact despite the hiatus in her 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 recovery against Bernarda Pera in the first round of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky.
The tournament is the first official WTA event in North America since the Indian Wells combined event was canceled in mid-March. The top seed in Lexington, Williams will turn 39 years old in September. She has 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one behind Margaret Court on the all-time list.
Williams fell behind by 0-40 while serving at 4-all in the second set, but she salvaged the game in a trademark comeback and lost just one more game in the first-round encounter.
The match provided Williams with her first exposure to high-stakes tennis played with no fans — or crowd noise. She was surprised by how she felt: ” I don’t dislike it, and that’s weird because I’m such an emotional player,” she said, adding that she feeds on the energy directed at her by the crowd. She said the vibe reminded her of junior tennis, where few fans watch the matches. “I really like the nostalgic-ness of it [no noise]. It reminds me of back to the basics and when I was trying hard to make it.”
After her stint in the Top Seed Open, Williams is committed to traveling to New York to take part in the US Open, which is the back end of a two-tournament event that will be played starting next week in a bio-secure “bubble” at the National Tennis Center.