When Serena Williams won Wimbledon Saturday (July 11), she said — as she usually does after a big win — “I want to thank Jehovah God.”
Williams, 33, is the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, known for her relentless will, bullying strokes and withering speed. She is also a Jehovah’s Witness, a faith that encourages members to separate from the broader world and discourages them from competitive sports on the grounds that it promotes nationalism, violence and celebrity — all things Witnesses are supposed to avoid.
And yet for Williams, her faith is like a secret weapon, a stealthy supply of strength and perseverance that some observers say is as vital to her game as her 120 mph serve. A Saturday win would bring her one step closer to a “calendar slam” — the rarely achieved four Grand Slam tournament wins in one year.
How has Williams balanced her faith and the winner’s circle? It is a subject she and her sister Venus, also a tennis star and former No. 1 player, have discussed only rarely. But Serena Williams has left a trail of comments that show her belief in God, and especially her identity as a Witness, has bolstered her already formidable tennis talents.
“I have to thank Jehovah God for this,” Serena Williams told the crowd after receiving the trophy at the Australian Open in January, her sixth win there. “I was down and out and he helped me today and I just said prayers, not to win but to be strong and to be healthy and in the end I was able to come through so I have to give the glory to him first and foremost.”
And she thanked Jehovah again as she held the massive silver dish awarded the Wimbledon champion.
SOURCE: Kimberly Winston
Religion News Service