Ten years ago, I was playing tennis competitively, and because I was very into it, subconsciously, as a kid loved media and popular culture. I started looking into who was famous at the time and the narrative surrounding them.
Fast forward, now that I am out of my tennis phase, I am seeing that the players who I used to follow religiously are retiring one after the other. Maybe that’s a good thing because now they are leaving space for new faces to grow.
The tennis industry treated some of its legendary players as celebrities, meaning that they drew focus on other than their tennis playing abilities. We can see that more so in women players than men.
Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are prime examples of that.
In 2004 when Maria Sharapova won against Serena Williams in Wimbledon at just 17 years old, that’s when the focus on her background grew. Everyone started to wonder who the 17-year-old who won against Serena Williams was.
And while we cannot deny Sharapova’s tennis skills, we can see that she grew as a tennis player through much more than just playing tennis.
Sharapova’s partnership with Nike was unique compared to other players. Every tennis player is partnered with both an athleisure clothing brand and a tennis racket brand. What was unique about Sharapova’s partnership is that she became sort of an influencer where people were buying similar tennis dresses and the same pink prince tennis racket as hers. she also has her candy brand, Sugarpova
The other big tennis icon is, of course, Serena Williams.
Serena Williams is a celebrity through and through. She makes a lot of appearances in pop culture and the entertainment industry.
One was her appearance in Beyoncé’s music video “Sorry” in 2016.
Serena William has been invited to every met gala since 2017. Keep in mind that a lot of celebrities in the entertainment industry don’t get invited to the met gala. She is also being featured in things like architectural digest house tours.
Now we can’t deny how both Sharapova and Williams are tennis legends and have made history Tennis will never forget. Their inclusion in pop culture and entertainment culture begs the question of whether they were going to get the attention they are getting now without it.
To the average person keeping up with tennis, who I have now become, it can be hard to name other female tennis players simply because they are not on our architectural digest YouTube feed.
Now that both Sharapova and Williams are retired, all the exposure they go is an advantage so they can reinvent themselves.