Authors: Serena Williams
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Sports, #Women, #Sports & Recreation, #Tennis
Copyright © 2009 by Serena Williams
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
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“In her memoir, ON THE LINE, Serena shares with us her evolution from a girl to a woman to a world champion. From the first
time I met her, when she was very young, to watching her capture the U.S. Open, Serena has always amazed me with her ability
on the court, her curiosity away from it, and her overall love for life.”
—Billie Jean King
“Ascending from nowhere to the top of the world, she has run an exciting zigzag course transforming darkest days into bright
victories on her way to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”
“On the court, Serena is the most challenging opponent I’ve come up against, and off the court, she is a loving sister and
a true friend. Serena has been a role model for me and an inspiration.”
This book is dedicated to my daddy. Your vision
and undying dedication made everything I do possible. I love you.
When people congratulate me after Venus and I win a doubles championship, I always tell them I didn’t do very much—except
for pick the right partner and then stand back and let Venus do all the work.
That’s how I feel about this book, because from the very beginning I was blessed to work with good, creative people. First
and foremost, I have to give glory to Jehovah God for allowing me to have this opportunity. My mom—thank you for your support,
your unconditional love, your strength, and your smile. Without you this book would not have been possible! Daddy—your confidence
in me has led me to become a champion not only on the court but off. I love you both!
This couldn’t have been done without my sister and business advisor, Isha. When I wanted to give up on this project she urged
me on, kept me motivated, and saw this project through from beginning to end, never missing a beat. Isha, I can’t say thank
I would also like to thank my agent and friend at the William Morris Agency, Jill Smoller. You have been in my corner for
both the ups and downs—thank you for seeing me through this project. You mean so much to me! Also thanks to Evan Levy; he
is invaluable to my team.
I also owe thanks to Suzanne Gluck, the head of the William Morris literary department. I couldn’t be Serena without my lawyer,
Keven Davis, his colleague, Theresa Simpson, and my business manager, Larry Bailey. They’ve all taken turns keeping me on
track since I was nine years old.
Of course, I can’t accomplish anything without the endless support of my other sisters: Yetunde, the world’s best big sister;
Lyndrea, my heartbeat; and Venus, my best friend! Yetunde, you live forever in my soul and you’re in my thoughts every day.
My sisters keep me grounded and love me no matter what, even when they found out I broke their piggy banks!
I am indebted to my coauthor, Dan Paisner. Dan ended up chasing me all over the world to put my thoughts on these pages. Yeah,
we did it, Dan!
At Grand Central Publishing, I am grateful to Karen Kosztolnyik, our editor, who did a great job helping me and Dan shape
and polish our manuscript. Karen, your insights really helped make this a fun yet empowering book. I want to thank all the
amazing people at Grand Central who helped behind the scenes, including Karen’s assistant, Celia Johnson; publisher Jamie
Raab; editor-in-chief Deb Futter; associate publisher Emi Battaglia; production editor, Tareth Mitch; director of publicity,
Jennifer Romanello; publicist, Jimmy Franco; publicist, Linda Duggins; art director, Claire Brown… and everybody else who
had a role in turning me into a real author.
Finally, I want to thank all my readers and supporters for traveling on this journey with me through these pages. Go forth
with an abundance of courage and the confidence that you can do anything you set your mind to.
“When you fail, you fail alone.”
—Sign posted on a public tennis court by
Richard Williams to inspire his young daughters
September 3, 2008
Arthur Ashe Stadium. U.S. Open. Head-to-head against Venus. Under the lights in front of a packed house. I hate that it’s
just the quarterfinals, but it’s always a battle when we meet. Last time we played was in the Wimbledon final just a couple
months back. Venus got the better of that one, but I came out strong. First two or three games, I was dominant. Fearless.
That’s how you have to play it on grass. You have to go for those winners early, but then I started thinking too much and
the match got away. That happens sometimes, especially against a tough player like my Big Sis.
That’s what I have to keep reminding myself going into this one: how good Venus is. How strong I’ll have to be to counter.
How carefully I’ll have to defend. All week long, since I first saw the draw, I had this quarterfinal matchup with V in my
head. She’s the best player on the tour—with a huge serve. When she’s on her game, no one can touch her. Well… except for
We’ve gone back and forth in these matches. In the beginning, V beat up on me pretty good. Then I beat her up in the finals
of four straight majors. Now we’re back and forth again. We’ve played against each other so many times, we know each other’s
games so well, there aren’t too many surprises. Venus tends to strategize a lot more than I do before a match, so I know she’ll
mix things up; she’ll go another way with her shots; she’ll work a new set of angles; she’ll show me something different on
her serve, some new disguise. I tend to react more than V, so I plan to be ready for whatever she throws at me.
Warming up, I’m thinking she’ll have to completely reinvent her game if she hopes to win. I’ve been playing so well. All year
long. Solid. Consistent. No, I haven’t won a major, but I’ve come close, and I’ve won a bunch of tournaments along the way.
I even won a gold medal in women’s doubles with Venus at the Beijing Olympics. And I’ve been healthy. This is key. This appearance
at the Open is the first time I’ve played all four majors in back-to-back years, so I’m happy with my fitness and my energy
and my focus. It spills over into my game, because the more I play, the better I play. Venus knows that about me, too. She
knows she has to bring… something. And I know that she knows. And she knows that I know. Like I said, there are no surprises.
My plan is to start fast, maybe catch Venus before she’s locked in. A lot of times, even top players fumble through the first
few games of a match. I’m guilty of it, too. It’s like we’re sizing up our opponents, afraid to make a mistake, so we play
tight until things loosen up. These early games are a little like a boxing match: two fighters circling in the ring, each
waiting for the other to make the first move. It’s a tentative dance, but my thing is to pounce. Doesn’t always work out that
you get that chance, because sometimes the game doesn’t give you what you need, but that’s the idea.
We’ll start on my serve. That’s huge. A big serve like mine can set me up for the whole match. Already I’m thinking,
Okay, Serena, here’s your edge.
But then I step to the line and I don’t get the ball quite where I want it on the toss, and I end up hitting my first serve
into the net. It lets out a little of the air from my game plan. Not a lot, but some. I try not to place too much weight on
the first point of a match, or the first serve, because it’s not like they’re worth any more than any of the other shots you’ll
need to make to get the win. You take that first point, you’ve still got to grab a hundred more. Some players, they’re just
the opposite. They want to get on the board first and start playing with a lead, but I don’t worry about that. I don’t even
worry about the first game—unless, of course, I’m serving. Then I’m all over it. Then I can’t let the other girl break.
Venus takes my second serve deep to the notch at the baseline, forcing me to short-hop the ball on my return. It’s a shot
I’ve been working on in practice with my dad—and I guess Venus has been working on it, too. It’s a difficult shot to defend
because it’s right at your feet, with pace, and you’re a little off balance coming out of your serve. There’s not much I can
do but wrist the ball back over the net, where Venus is waiting. Luckily, she tries to do too much with it and goes for a
sideline winner to my forehand side, missing wide.
I take a deep breath. Doesn’t matter to me if I beat my opponent or if she beats herself. As long as she’s beat. Even if it’s
my sister. I love her dearly (she’s my best friend!), but that gets tossed while we’re playing. For now she’s just like any
other girl on the other side of the net, trying to keep me from what I want. She feels the same way. We tell each other we
can be sisters later.
Venus gets the point right back. I basically give it to her, on an unforced error off her return, right into the net, so I
take another deep breath to settle. I think,
Come on, Serena. You can’t be giving it away like that on a nothing shot.
At 15-all, I’m caught flat in the middle of a long rally. Venus powers a low return that looks to me like it will catch the
net, so I don’t move toward it the way I should, and I end up paying. Actually, I don’t move toward it at all. You only get
a split second to move toward a shot, and here I let that split second pass, so Venus’s ball falls softly to the court, just
out of reach. I want to smack myself on the head with my racquet—that’s how disappointed I am in my own effort. I know better
than to give up on a point before it’s done.
One of the great things about tennis is it doesn’t give you any time to dwell on your mistakes. Spend too much time on one
and you’ll make another. And another. There’s always a next point to occupy your full attention, so I set that mental error
aside and step to the line. Now it’s V’s turn to give it back with a mental error of her own—a long return that knots the
game at 30–30. Next, she gets the ball where she wants it but tries to be too fine and sends it wide to the same sideline
where she’d missed that previous shot, putting me up 40–30.
Here I take an extra beat before serving… then, a rifle shot, nearly on the T, curling away from V’s forehand. My first ace.
Glad to get that out of the way, along with this first game, but once again there’s no time to dwell on it because there’s
no changeover. We change sides, but that’s it. I try not to make eye contact with V as we pass. I have this mean, steely look
when I play, so I’ll just stare down my opponent if our eyes happen to meet. No big thing. But with V, I worry I’ll smile
or break out laughing, so it’s better not to look and maybe cut the tension. Better to let it build and tighten and try to
use it to my advantage.
Usually, I don’t think about this. In fact, during the first game of the match I make a special point of crossing on the opposite
side of the court, as far away from my opponent as possible. I’ve never seen anyone else do this, but it’s become a ritual
for me. My thinking is, What’s the point of crossing in front of the umpire if there’s no changeover? I’d rather steer clear,
unless I feel like I need a sip of water or some type of equipment change, so that’s the way I play it here.
Venus opens with her first serve, and I manage only a short return, which she crushes for her first winner. I can barely get
my racquet on her next serve, and as she goes up 30–0 I think,
Dang, V, you keep serving like this, I’m in trouble.