Serena Williams is statistically the greatest female tennis player of all time. But despite her athleticism, she hasn’t always been body confident. Now, as her reportedly unretouched semi-nude photo on Pirelli’s 2016 calendar of real women affirms, Williams is keen to project a positive body image. Emma Lewis caught up with the tennis pro at the launch of underwear company Berlei ( exciting new sports bra range to talk body confidence, supportive bras and gearing up for a match.

You’ve admitted to feeling self-conscious about your body shape before – do you have any body issues now?‘My body type is in style! People get surgery to look like this, so I’m like “Yes! I haven’t paid any money to get a body like this.’” [she says with a grin]

But is it important that women realise fitness and athleticism come in a variety of shapes and sizes?’Yes, it definitely is. I was writing an article for one of my classes [Serena’s doing a nutrition course] and realised you can actually be really fit but not be super-thin, and you can even be fitter than a thin or lean person. Some people don’t have the body type to be really thin but they can still have the fitness. Because I was a different size to other athletes, I didn’t realise that I was fit. I had to get the body confidence. I didn’t have the education to realise [that fitness comes in all sizes]. It’s been a long process.’


What do you find is so good about Berlei bras?‘I used to wear two different types of bras one over the other to play tennis in. and they hurt my shoulders. Then my mum introduced me to Berlei in Australia 10 years ago. Berlei bras are really supportive. The company does so much research – I go to Australia a lot and I get to see the videos they have of boobs moving around and I’m like “wow!” I didn’t know that really happened – is that what they do when I’m running on the court? They understand mine better than I do! It’s all about protecting and supporting. You can damage your ligaments, so it’s really important to be properly protected. Berlei has lots of fabrics and great prints. I have a feeling that the number one bra brand in Australia is going to keep going worldwide.’

What does your training regime consist of?‘In season, I train four or five times a week and. closer to Grand Slams, I train six or seven times. When I first started, I did a lot of stuff on the bike and a lot of distance running. Every three to five years I change my routine. I started doing circuit training this year -1 don’t know how that started – it just happened!TH pick five exercises and do them really fast. Today. I practised for two hours and went to the gym for two hours. I also love dancing – it’s so much fun. It keeps me fresh. I do a little flexibility too – I’m trying to get more flexible for dance but my hips aren’t playing!’

How do you prepare mentally to go out and play a match?‘I put on mascara for the cameras [laughs], listen to a lot of Irene Cara songs, such as What a feeling [from the film Flashdance] and music from Fame’. Pumping 80s tunes! They really pump you up pre-match and I try to zone out and realise it’s my moment.’


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