An Open Letter to Those Criticizing Serena Williams’ Attitude

Serena announced Thursday that she would not be playing in any more tournaments this year. So now that she’s quietly retired until January, let’s talk about what’s been bothering me all season.

Dear Serena haters,


Why are you criticizing someone for her “attitude problem” when her achievements this season — and throughout her career — are far more worthy of your attention than her blowing off a press conference or being a less-than-gracious loser?

Serena has never been the poster child of tennis etiquette. She’s been short with reporters. She’s confronted line judges. She’s had heated exchanges with opponents.

Most of the time, Serena knows when she’s been ungracious, and she apologizes. Sometimes she doesn’t feel the need to apologize, nor should she.

Serena is not the only player — or athlete, even — who visibly shows her distress and frustration with losing. Yet she is criticized for this behavior far more often than most pros on the tour.

These criticisms are especially problematic, as many writers have pointed out over the years, because they mar her with the “angry black woman” stereotype — a label that has been difficult to overcome for many successful, confident and outspoken women of color.

Following Serena’s altercation with a line judge in the U.S. Open finals four year ago,Feministing” author Zerlina Maxwell wrote:

“I can’t imagine what it must be like for a professional athlete like Serena Williams who is constantly in the spotlight to balance her public image for a majority white audience of traditional tennis fans. While male tennis legends like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and even Andre Agassi are labeled ‘bad boys,’ which is almost a compliment, Serena is derided for her outward expressions of anger.”

And if it’s not Serena’s attitude for which she’s criticized, it’s her body, or the way she dominates the game — some even going so far as to allege she uses steroids.

But it’s time to stop attacking Serena, haters, and join J.K. Rowling and the rest of the cool people who support her. She has accomplished incredible feats in the world of sports, transcending barriers of race, class and gender along the way, making her a true role model for young women everywhere.

And truthfully? I like her attitude.

So to Serena —

Take it easy over the next few months; we look forward to seeing you at the Australian Open, attitude and all.


I grew up in a tennis family with three younger sisters as doubles partners. If you enjoyed a blog post of mine or want to know more, feel free to email me at Thanks for reading and staying connected with MyTennisLessons!
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