CNN interviewed Serena Williams when she was 9. Here’s what she said
When Serena Williams became the youngest women’s singles tennis champion ever at the US Open in January, it was a historic moment for American sports, and a moment that was captured by a photographer named Mario Testino. He snapped Williams on the cover of Sports Illustrated, wearing a flower pinned to her shirt collar.
The moment that would define her rise — and the path she walked to the top of the sport in a sport that was once dominated by the men — came at the 2019 US Open when Williams beat Naomi Osaka to become the first woman in the Open era to capture the crown of the women’s singles title. Williams became the first ever female to reach an US Open singles final and the first since Billie Jean King in 1967 to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Serena Williams celebrates as she takes the women’s singles title on the US Open tennis stadium court in New York. Reuters
The US Open is a strange place for sportswriters and observers because it’s different than the Grand Slams, the tournaments on which most sports fans latch onto. With its different structure, it’s not as widely watched, and Williams’ win and how she won, became an important story in its own right, and her rise at such a young age — she started playing tennis when she was three — had big implications for the growth of women’s tennis, as well as the sport at large. While she was the undisputed champion of the women’s game, she was also the first woman to win the prestigious US Open, and it was the only major where she reached the semis.
Serena Williams (left) celebrates after winning the women’s singles title on the US Open tennis stadium court in New York on day three of the 2019 US Open. REUTERS
For those interested in sports, and who followed Williams’ rise in the sport, the story in the past year was a fascinating contrast. Two years before Williams became the world’s number one women’s singles player, Sere