'She really inspired me': IMG Academy tennis players reflect on the legacy of Serena Williams
BRADENTON, Fla. - Serena Williams won the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday evening. It’s considered to likely be the final Grand Slam tournament of her historic career.
Many are now reflecting on the impact she’s had on the sport, including young tennis players at IMG Academy in Bradenton. A spokesperson from the school said Williams first arrived at the academy for training at 14-years-old.
Coaches said they knew then she would be named among the greats.
"She spent a lot of time here connecting with Nick and being here at the academy. So it's been such a remarkable career to see her when I was a player and also as a coach, how she changed the game," Margie Zesinger, head of the women’s tennis program said.
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Years later, her presence is still felt by current students of the program each time they step on the court.
"I am in the same place where she has evolved and she has grown over the years and she's become someone that is probably one of females biggest legacies of tennis," Siena Schintler, a tennis player said.
For some in the program, Williams is the reason why they picked up a racket in the first place.
"I was around five years old. I was watching her play U.S. Open. I felt really inspired by her because she looked just like me," Chernor Abie Barrie said.
Williams is now a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion. Schintler ,14, and Barrie, 12, said watching her rise to become one of the greatest in the sport has inspired them in their own careers and the things they can accomplish.
"I think it inspires many young girls just like me, that no matter how you look, no matter about anything, you can do it and you're capable of doing anything," Barrie said.
"Serena Williams is known for her humbleness on the court, her attitude, her sportsmanship, and the way she never gives up. That's basically a summary of what I think is most inspiring about her," Schintler said.
Williams moves on to the second round of the U.S. on Open Wednesday evening. She will also play a doubles match against her sister Venus later in the competition.