When news came that Serena Williams would be withdrawing from the upcoming Australian Open due to pregnancy, it seemed like a blessing in disguise for the tennis champ. The road to recovery and getting back on the court will be much less treacherous with a baby in tow than it would have been without one. B
ut while Williams’ decision is understandable, especially given her history of playing through injuries and her natural abilities, it is also a loss for women in sports. For many female athletes, watching Williams dominate tennis courts has offered a source of encouragement and inspiration.
Even now, she remains among the highest-paid female athletes not only because of her skills on the court but also due to her brand that transcends sports. In recent years, however, we’ve seen fewer glimpses into her private life as she focused more on advancing her career off it.
So while we might see this as an opportunity for both motherhood and personal growth for Williams (as well as potential opportunities for other players who can follow in her footsteps), there’s no denying that this is a significant change from what we have become accustomed to seeing—and celebrating—in professional tennis. Read More: Leicester City Vs Manchester United
A loss for women in sports
When one of the most recognizable athletes in the world retires, that’s a loss for everyone, including women in sports. When we lose a prominent figure like Williams, we also lose visibility for female athletes.
While Williams has been celebrated for being a trailblazer, there are other female athletes who have not received the same amount of attention.
Although there were two women competing in the Australian Open (overall, there are usually about 10-14 women in the main draw of Grand Slam tournaments), both of them were unseeded. There is no denying that Serena’s absence reduces the level of attention that women’s tennis will receive.
Why Williams’ exit is a loss for women in sports
For women who have wanted to pursue tennis, or any other sport, but have been discouraged by the lack of attention it receives, it’s easy to see why Williams’ exit could be a loss for women in sports. When a prominent figure like Williams retires, it can be difficult for other women to find the spotlight, as there are only so many spots to be taken up by female athletes. And it’s not just about finding a place in the spotlight. It’s about getting the same amount of attention that male athletes receive.
For example, according to the latest study from the Women’s Sports Foundation, coverage of the 2018 US Open was roughly 78% for men’s tennis and only 22% for women’s tennis. Though women’s tennis has been growing in popularity over the past few decades, it appears that Williams’ exit could trigger a slight regression in that growth.
Loss of role model and mentor
Williams has been a role model not only for aspiring tennis players but also for young women seeking to break into male-dominated industries. Her retirement will rob them of a mentor. It’s important to note that Williams has not only been a role model for female athletes but also for women in general, speaking out on topics ranging from racial inequality to equal pay.
Her retirement could mean that there are fewer female mentors in sports. While the retirement of other prominent female athletes (such as Serena’s sister Venus and trailblazing swimmer Michael Phelps) will also rob young women of mentors, it’s worth noting that both of these athletes have already retired. Williams, on the other hand, has given no indication of retirement in the near future.
By announcing her decision to retire early, she leaves a void for female athletes who were hoping to learn from her.
Loss of exposure for other athletes
Even when Williams was on the court, female tennis players had a limited amount of exposure. While tennis is the second-most-watched sport in the world, there are only 16 spots in the main draw at each Grand Slam. That’s a tiny amount of exposure that comes with a lot of training and determination.
When Williams retires, many of these aspiring female athletes are likely to see their hopes of progressing in the sport squashed. Why? Because even if they strive to maintain the same level of excellence as Williams, they will now face even more competition. With Williams out of the picture, the draw at major tournaments will be reduced to only 15 spots. That means that some of the best female tennis players will miss out on opportunities to advance in the sport. Read More: Insurance Web Aggregator License
Loss of a major tournament
While there are other major tennis tournaments throughout the year, a significant number of players come to the Australian Open to make their first real mark on the tennis world. While there are other tournaments that offer ATP points that decide who ascends to the upper echelons of tennis, the Australian Open offers Slam points, which are significantly more valuable.
These points are what decide who is seeded at other Grand Slams, as well as other tournaments. With Williams no longer in the draw, there will be one fewer place for female players to gain Slam points and one fewer opportunity for them to prove their worth.
What we’ll miss about Serena Williams
While it’s important to acknowledge the significant impact that Williams’ exit could have on female athletes and sports in general, it’s also worth celebrating the things we’ll miss about her. Williams has been a cultural force not only in the tennis world but also in the world of sports more broadly.
She is a three-time Olympic medalist, a brand that transcends tennis, and she has been outspoken on issues like racial equality and gender equality in the workplace. Her absence will leave a gaping hole in the sports world.
Advancing women in sports: the opportunity cost
The timing of Williams’ departure is unfortunate as there are a number of events coming up in the next few months that could have propelled female athletes to new levels of popularity.
The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, will kick off in a few weeks. This year’s tournament is particularly special as it marks the 100th anniversary of women’s tennis. It would have been a golden opportunity for the tennis world to celebrate female athletes, not to mention provide a huge boost for their brand. The other major sporting event coming up is the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where Williams was expected to defend her gold medal in tennis.
These events could have provided a massive platform for female athletes to reach new audiences and gain new levels of fame. Instead, they will now have to find new ways to engage with audiences and build their brands.
What’s at stake for female athletes?
When examining the impact that Williams’ departure could have on female athletes, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First, the risk of relying on one athlete to bring attention to a sport or event is that when that athlete retires or walks away, there is no guarantee that the next person will be able to generate the same level of interest.
Second, the importance of an athlete’s brand extends beyond the sports that they play. When one athlete retires, the entire industry they built around their name and their brand is at risk of disappearing with them. But what’s also at stake is the financial stability of the brands that they represent, as well as the industries that support these brands with sponsorship deals, equipment, and other means of support.
What Serena Williams means to female athletes
While the significance of Williams’ retirement cannot be understated, it’s important to remember that she is just one athlete among many. There are female athletes who excel in many different sports, including tennis.
There are athletes who excel in sports that are less prominent or less celebrated, such as sports that don’t require a court or a swimmer in the water. There are athletes who excel in sports that are heavily male-dominated, such as football or baseball.
The spotlight on Williams has been bright, but it is important to remember that it is a spotlight that shines on only one athlete among many, and that spotlight is dulling with her retirement. Now, it’s up to other athletes to step into the light and hold it there.
As we watch Williams’ last game, it’s important to remember that her retirement will not only affect the tennis world. It will have ramifications for the sports world at large and the female