In the second season of their podcast, The GOAT: Serena, they examine the remarkable career of one of the greatest tennis superstars of all time, Serena Williams. She is a record tennis champion, philanthropist, beloved friend and family woman.
The podcast features an array of guests, including tennis greats Billie Jean King, Monica Seles, Andy Roddick, Pam Shriver, Martina Navratilova, sister of rapper-actress Serena Isha Price and former boyfriend of Serena Common, ABC’s Good Morning America presenter Robin Roberts, trainer Kamau Murray and many more on Diversion Podcasts and iHeartRadio.
I spoke with Zina and Chanda about Serena Williams’ legacy and she is one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Grove: As you know, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens have openly said that they are superstar athletes, women of color, and they face mental health issues as well as racism. What are some thoughts about their openness to their experiences?
Garrison: I’m really glad they brought it up. It is important to talk about mental health in sport and in our culture and society. This has always been a problem and sports figures normally have a platform to actually raise awareness of such things. I think Sloane and Naomi do a great job.
Insist on: I would say this is a factor and certainly for some it has been a problem. For years, this is something that a lot of athletes, but especially tennis players, have faced primarily because it is an individual sport and you don’t always have the support you need. Everyone has their individual teams and their families that they put around them, but in terms of dealing with the public and all the obligations that come with it, the expectations, all the internal pressures, you are finding out. by yourself from a young age. We must not forget that some of these players start at 14, 15, 16 years old. When you try to work on a lot of things and get into your twenties, to others you can seem like an adult who has it all figured out. But you really understand it as you go. It can exacerbate mental health issues or simply the difficulties you face as a person trying to grow up in the limelight.
Grove: The chemistry between you two is so organic. How did you come up with the idea for the podcast?
Insist on: We started doing it when the pandemic hit. We started doing interviews and trying to find ways to create interesting conversations and stay connected. It kind of took on a life of its own and at some point. I was talking with someone about doing some sort of podcast on Serena. I knew I had to bring Zina because she brings a different perspective. We sank and it was a lot of fun. I think for us initially it was looking at Serena through the lens of what it’s like to play her, to be around her and to make her so awesome. It is more than the physical gifts and the reluctance to lose but also the mental side. We started to think about it with that in mind and since we were both playing top level professional tennis. I played Serena, our careers overlap and Zina was a bit ahead of us. She was also an early inspiration and mentor to Serena and Venus. She has had other coaching interactions with her during her career. So we had different perspectives that we wanted to share. We also wanted to bring other players, those who knew her, and who coached her. We had a fantastic group of people we were able to sit down and talk to and that was part of what made this concept really exciting.
Garrison: For me it was basically Chanda said. We were sitting when the pandemic started and Chanda will tell you, I am very creative sometimes. So I just called Chanda and asked her if she wanted to start video podcasting. When she called me about this opportunity, I was really excited for two reasons: I’m one of Chanda’s biggest fans. She gives excellent feedback as a tennis analyst. So that gave us the opportunity to work together. Second, I really wanted to celebrate Serena as a GOAT. We got to talk to some amazing people who have come through her life and who wanted to celebrate what she did.
Grove: What did you find out about him that you didn’t know before?
Insist on: There have been some incredible stories. Having played it, I already knew how intense it is. But I also spent time off the pitch talking to her in the locker room, at tournaments, where we were laughing and laughing together and you have these different sides of Serena but I didn’t know she was such a prankster. I see it a bit now but I wouldn’t have thought that because she brings such intensity and fire to the game. It’s kind of a really cool juxtaposition to think about that side of her. You watch Serena now and how different her life is as a mother and wife. Also, learn how great a mother she is. I mean, I thought she was a really good mom just talking to her and hearing how other people interact with her. I did not know the depth of it. So I thought it was pretty cool as a mom myself.
Garrison: I would say for myself, I’ve known her since she was seven and she has always been very intense. She has always been a prankster because she loves life. But one of the things that I sort of already knew, but learned even more from talking about it with other people, is her faith in herself. We all know she and her family are very close, but they are even closer than I thought. I would say one of the most important things I discovered about her is how organized her whole life is. It’s amazing what she packs in a day.
Grove: Do you believe Serena can earn another major before she quits?
Garrison: Whether she does or not, it’s good because she’s already defied the odds. I think it got harder with the competition. Plus, you can’t forget the fact that she is getting old. If anyone can do it, she can do it. But as we know, in the world of tennis it is getting more and more difficult every day. We saw at the US Open, you have youngsters coming in at 100 per hour against her.
Insist on: If she doesn’t win another tournament, what she’s accomplished already stands by itself. She has the greatest record of the open era. She has won singles, major, doubles and mixed titles. you know. Hopefully it continues so that we can enjoy it a little longer in this sport. She has helped completely change the game and we are seeing the benefits just over the past US Open with new players coming in who have been influenced and inspired by what she has done. So I hope we have it for a little longer. It’s like what Zina said, what’s great about this podcast is that we can celebrate her even though she never wins another.
Grove: I think it’s amazing to see black women like you two who have done so much to celebrate another black woman while she’s still in the game. But here’s my last question: we know Serena is the GOAT. tennis, but where do we rank her among the greatest athletes of all time?
Insist on: When we think of Serena, we can’t forget that Venus was the first. Without her, there might not be Serena. I think this is the greatest story in the history of sport. I don’t know of any story that you can really put on a par of what they accomplished, coming from the same family, how the story unfolded and how it was predicted. When you consider how much pressure it put on these young girls and the idea that she was going to be even bigger and then accomplish what she did, I find it hard to find a bigger story and I am open
Garrison: I like to watch a lot of different sports and Serena is one of the best men in sport of all time. They like to keep her apart, but if you say who are the first three or four people who changed the way people view sports, entertainment, and nine-plus-yards, what she did on the field outside of the field, I would put her top among the three best athletes of all time.