“He’s one of the main reasons I’m still playing”: Serena Williams on Tiger Woods’ influence as US Open farewell continues

Williams said Woods had offered her advice when she was trying to figure out if she wanted to play tennis again

Tiger Woods USO 2022 Antoine Couvercelle/Panoramic

Only a handful of sports stars are famous enough that they’re known by one name.

On Wednesday night, two of them – Serena (Williams) and Tiger (Woods) were at Flushing Meadows, as Williams continued what seems sure to be her last ever US Open and Woods watched from courtside.

Former golf world No 1 Woods has been through more than his share of ups and downs in his career, some self-inflicted, some unlucky and the American knows what it takes to come back after a long absence and regain former glories, his US Masters win in 2019 coming after years of back problems and finally, back surgery.

Woods, who returned to golf in 2022 after a life-threatening car crash, was out of his seat numerous times as 40-year-old Williams, out of the sport for a year, turned back time with a stunning three-set win over the No 2 seed Anett Kontaveit.

And even though Williams revealed that retirement is imminent, the 23-time Grand Slam champion said Woods had been a major factor in her comeback.

“He’s one of the reasons I’m here, one of the main reasons I’m still playing,” Williams said on Wednesday night. “So we talked a lot. He was really trying to get me motivated.

“There’s a few people, but we were like, Okay, we can do this together, you know? It was good, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just lost, so many questions. When you can rely on someone like that, I mean, my goodness, he’s Tiger Woods, it was really helpful to get clarity.”

Serena Williams at the 2022 US Open in New York
Serena Williams at the 2022 US Open in New York Image Credit: AI/ Reuters/ Panoramic

Woods: “Serena, what if you gave it two weeks”

In her recent interview with Vogue magazine, in which she said she was likely to retire soon after the US Open, Williams said she had asked Woods for help when she “had the itch” to play tennis again in the spring.

“I told him I needed his advice on my tennis career,” she wrote. “I said, ‘I don’t know what to do: I think I’m over it, but maybe I’m not over it’. “He’s Tiger, and he was adamant that I be a beast the same way he is! He said, “Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens.”

“I said: ‘All right, I think I can do that.’ And I didn’t do it. But a month later, I gave it a try. And it felt magical to pick up a racket again. And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the US Open after that. As I’ve said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me.”

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