French Open 2013: Serena Williams Provides Life Lessons to Us All

Delores Smith-JohnsonCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 08:  Serena Williams of USA poses 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)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

If you did not see or haven’t had a chance to watch a rebroadcast of the French Open women’s final, I would recommend doing so. What world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 2 Maria Sharapova brought to that court on Saturday morning was so much greater than the tremendous play they provided on it—especially Serena.

As we’ve witnessed Serena over the years, we’ve seen her grow up while watching her skill set develop and be refined to the level of a master. There’s simply no other way to describe it. Her game will serve as a teaching tool for generations to come.

Most of us remember that statement she made some time ago about not loving tennis, which has been dissected and analyzed so many times. The question on everyone’s mind seemed to be, and may still be, why does she do something she doesn’t like?

But can anyone truthfully say that they haven’t experienced not loving/liking something they actually did/do love/like due to obstacles being encountered or anticipated. In Serena’s case, especially, it may have been due to putting so much pressure on herself and not seeing her ambitions materialize.

The key in analyzing Serena’s comment is quite simple. In order to have a negative or positive reaction about anything, you first have to care about it. And she definitively expressed that when she discussed remaining in the sport and having a desire to continue to do so.

Clearly, Serena cares about tennis passionately. It could not be more explicitly displayed than in how she played leading up to this year's French Open. During that interview, she was merely expressing an inner truth that she had come to understand and accept. Being honest with ourselves and others is a critical step in transitioning through life.

What is so profound about Serena is that her on-court tennis lessons translate into everyday life, as we just discussed. Let’s take a look at some other practical life lessons.


Don’t Let Age Define Who You Are and What You Can Accomplish

At 31, Serena is the oldest player ranked No. 1 in WTA history, and with her win Saturday, she became the oldest French Open champion in Open Era history (dating back to 1968). And might we add, her latest French Open win gave her a second career Grand Slam.

So the next time you're thinking of using age as an excuse or a way to impose limitations, be inspired by the ageless Serena Williams. You define yourself.


Being Able to Reach Out and Doing So When You Need Support

Serena has a readily available support team. It’s crucial. When she has been in the midst of struggles, personally and professionally, as well as when she’s been celebrating, her team (parents, friends and coaches) has been and continues to be by her side.  

And let’s not forget the fans. They are a part of her support network. Serena makes that fact known in each post-match interview. At any tournament, there’s going to be a “Come on, Serena!” or some form of support echoing through the venue.

In her quarterfinal match against former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, as the camera was panning around, there was her mother, Oracene Price, cheering her daughter on. And also, at those critical moments when the crowd realized she needed that “little something” to continue on, they cheered support on cue.

As much as “everything Serena” is critical to her success, those people supporting her are just as important—and Serena continually acknowledges that very fact.


Embrace Change

Most people are reluctant when faced with the need to change or simply an opportunity to change—either being afraid of the uncertainty, being content to remain in current conditions or a combination of the two.   

Even if she has reservations, and she very well may, Serena has openly embraced taking the necessary steps to maximize her tennis skills with maturity and professionalism.

Let’s take a look at change as it pertains to her game.

Serena is now working with French coach Patrick Mouratoglu, giving her access to one of the best tennis minds in the coaching industry. More specifically, he has been instrumental in helping her sharpen her skills on the surface where she has achieved the least amount of success over the years.

In 2013, Serena has played some great clay-court tennis, beginning with the Family Circle Cup in Charleston.

Serena has also proactively seized the opportunity to fully embrace the French culture, maintaining a home in France, learning the language (utilizing it as much as possible when interacting with the media and the French people in general) and even taking art lessons.


Set a Goal, Stay Focused and Work Through Any Obstacles

I think Serena’s quarterfinal match was the best example over the course of this tournament.

Serena was down 2-0 in the final set, facing a player whose game is the most comparative to her game. Serena’s goal was to reach the final, and, despite facing obstacles, she remained focused on that goal. She worked through the hurdles, her opponent, Kuznetzova, and some difficulty in executing her game, battling back to win the set, 6-3, and win the match.

If you want to reach a certain goal, you cannot allow any unexpected variables—or expected variables, for that matter—to enter into the scenario and negatively impact your plan, impeding progress. That’s how Serena was able to reach the French Open final and win it.


Believe in Yourself

Believing in yourself is a life lesson intricately woven into achieving a goal or goals.

Serena Williams was simply devastated when she lost that first-round French Open match in 2012. But rather than lingering in that moment, she regrouped, she made changes, she rededicated her focus, she reaffirmed her love for the game and, most importantly, she believed in herself.

Without belief, we’re defeated before we undertake anything. But with belief, our success is limitless.


Surely, Serena Williams has been reinvigorated with even more passion to win and more love for the game with her 2013 French Open win. And as she continues her tennis career, she will, no doubt, continue to teach the world how to be a champion on the court and in life.

Thanks, Serena, wishing you much success.