‘I was just devastated… I felt so guilty’: Serena Williams reveals how she got just 30 MINUTES’ sleep before a win at the French Open in 2018 after her daughter Olympia fell out of her high-chair and was rushed to the hospital
- Serena Williams revealed a scary moment during the 2018 French Open
- Her daughter, Olympia, fell out of her high chair and suffered a broken wrist
- The two spent the night at a nearby hospital, where Olympia was given a cast
- Williams said she barely got any sleep, but still managed to win the next morning
Competing in her first Grand Slam since giving birth to daughter Olympia, Serena Williams wasn’t just a new mother at the 2018 French Open. As she revealed in a recent podcast interview with Meghan Markle, Williams was a new mother on 30 minutes of sleep after a terrifying night at a French hospital with her injured child.
‘I’ll never forget this is a crazy experience,’ Williams told Markle on the Archetypes podcast. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever said anything about it publicly. At the French Open, it was that year I wore that infamous catsuit – the one piece, black.’
Williams wore her controversial cat suit throughout the 2018 French Open before retiring ahead of her fourth-round clash with Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral injury. The outfit, which she wore to combat blood clots after a difficult pregnancy, was banned by French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli ‘out of ‘respect [for] the game and the place’ following the 2018 event. The WTA has since approved the outfit for matches.
But while the catsuit grabbed headlines, Williams was struggling to balance motherhood and tennis, particularly after Olympia fell out of her highchair and broke her wrist hours before an early-morning match at Roland Garros that year.
Serena Williams won her first three matches at the 2018 French Open despite the scare and her exhaustion from a late-night hospital visit with her injured daughter, Olympia
Serena Williams pictured in 2018 alongside daughter Olympia, who broke her wrist that May
‘So that year I had Olympia and I had a match the next day and that night, she fell out of her highchair and broke her wrist,’ Williams said, without revealing the specific match. ‘And she was on my watch. And I was just basically devastated. Like, I literally couldn’t think. I felt so guilty.’
Williams had no choice but to take Olympia to the hospital personally, not only risking a good night’s sleep, but also a chance at a record 24th major singles title.
‘We went to the hospital and she had a small tear, a break in her wrist, so she had to get a cast and we didn’t get back ’til like four in the morning,’ Williams said. ‘Meanwhile, of course, it is the one day I was playing early.
‘I remember holding her the whole night and just like rocking her to sleep and I just didn’t let her out of my sight at that point because I was already and I’m hard on myself, and I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. But I was so mad at myself for even allowing that to happen. So I think I got like 30 minutes of sleep and then I had to go play this match. And I’m just thinking, how am I going to play?’
Serena Williams of the US with her daughter Alexis Olympia after her win against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women’s singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020
A photograph of Meghan Markle issued with the first episode of her ‘Archetypes’ podcast, which included an interview with her friend, tennis legend Serena Williams
Williams did win the match, although she didn’t specify if it was one of her three singles victories at that year’s tournament or a doubles match with her sister, Venus.
‘I somehow managed to win, but I was so emotionally spent and just like so emotionally drained that it was, it was crazy,’ she continued. ‘And then like every night after that, I just was with her the whole time and was like you’re going to be with me.
‘I just took a lot on,’ Williams said. ‘But moms do a lot. Like I look at my mom. I don’t know how she had five kids. I don’t know. And I would drop anything at any time to whatever I had to do for Olympia. Middle of a Grand Slam final, I would leave if I had to.’
Williams pictured with her daughter, Olympia, after a eating a meal together
Williams recently announced that she is stepping away from tennis after the upcoming US Open.
‘I have never liked the word,’ Williams wrote in the latest issue of Vogue. ‘It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.
‘Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,’ she continued. ‘I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.’
Those ‘other things,’ she explained, are business and family.
For starters, Williams not only wants to spend more time with her husband, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and their five-year-old, Olympia, but the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner is hoping for another child.
‘In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family,’ Williams wrote. ‘I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.’
And then there are Williams’ copious business interests, including her own venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which raised a reported inaugural fund of $111 million last March. Furthermore, she and sister Venus are both minority owners of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, she’s part owner of a National Women’s Soccer League Team, and she has her own sustainable clothing line, S by Serena.
Williams plays a forehand return to Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova during their women’s singles first round match on day three of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open
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