Moments after losing the Wimbledon 2018 women’s final, Serena Williams gave an interview at Centre Court. “To all the moms out there, I was playing out there for you today and I tried,” she said. Her voice broke. The camera panned to her close friend, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in the stands. She looked like she was tearing up.
Earlier this year, Serena Williams almost died giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. But she still returned to the competitive tennis circuit, catapulted up 153 spots in the world rankings, and made it to a Grand Slam final, all in only 10 months. (It wasn’t without its challenges, physical and mental. Williams withdrew from the French Open due to injury. While training for Wimbledon, she missed one of her daughter’s milestones. “She took her first steps… I was training and missed it. I cried,” she tweeted.)
And on Monday, she followed up with another powerful message to mothers everywhere. “These past 2 weeks was a sound for all moms stay home and working you can do it you really can! I’m not any better or diff than any of you all. Your support has ment [sic] so much to me. Let’s keep making noise everyday in everything we do.”
As the greatest tennis player in history, Serena Williams is an icon. She doesn’t need to do anything more to retain that status. Still, 2018 has seen her fighting not just for trophies or records, but for a number of women’s causes. She’s used her visibility to speak about topics from breast feeding and the pressures of motherhood, to the racial bias black mothers face when seeking medical care. This weekend, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed with the headline “Serena Williams has her greatest, most hard-won title: Champion of women.”
“For a few years now, Williams has been taking a slow walk toward becoming a powerful social messenger and an influencer on the level of a Billie Jean King, addressing issues from the gender pay gap to body image to sexism in Silicon Valley,” wrote author Sally Jenkins. Williams ended her message about motherhood by looking forward, hashtagging the tweet #roadtoUSopen. As she gets ready for her next matches, it seems inevitable she’ll keep speaking out, creating a powerful legacy both on and off the court.
This article first appeared on Vogue.com