Women's Tennis' Future First Spouse Speaks Out on Serena – The Alexis Ohanian Interview

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Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

He’s everything Bill Clinton aspired to be. The former American President hoped again be in the White House. But Donald Trump stepped up and said – “Sorry, Bill, you’re not going to be the first spouse.”

But now Serena Williams’ fiancé is slated to become the first spouse of women’s tennis.

It’s been quite a surprise. After all, Serena often complained that it was hard to even have a good social life because she was always heading off to a tournament in Tokyo. Still, she has long been associated with interesting fellows.

She was furious when the Washington Redskin linebacker Lavar Arrington dumped her, and said that her surge after the breakup – which was one of the most successful stretches in her career – was a payback to Arrington. Don’t mess with Serena. She does revenge rather well.

In 2012 she claimed she would never date again.

But she did – and quite often. When dating Serena, Hollywood film director Brett Ratner twice went to the WTA Championships in L.A. She was briefly with the ATP’s Grigor Dimitrov and it led to a nasty Wimbledon exchange with Dimitrov’s subsequent lover, Maria Sharapova. Serena referred to the hunky Bulgarian as “dark heart.” It wasn’t pretty.

Serena was also associated with the NBA’s Amare Stoudemire as well as rapper Common – who she said “was the funniest man I have ever met…kind of” – and singer Drake, who some claimed distracted her during her pursuit of the calendar Slam in New York in 2015. One boyfriend who helped her enormously was her celebrated French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

More recently, Serena had a “Some Enchanted Evening” moment when, by chance, she encountered the Brooklyn-bred, San Francisco-based entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, who founded the innovative social news website Reddit. The couple met at a Rome restaurant, and later were involved in a fabled incident in the San Francisco Mission District when a deluded robber thought swiping Serena’s cell phone was a good idea.

The thief ran.

The star pursued.

The star prevailed.

And Ohanian prevailed too, when he took Serena back to that same Rome restaurant where the glitzy couple first met. There he proposed, and Williams promptly accepted, saying she would marry the slightly younger 33-year-old, who is of Armenian descent.

Earlier in Melbourne, Serena told IT that what she liked most about Alexis is, “He’s an incredibly nice person. I think definitely he treats everyone the same, which is really cool to see. Really, really nice to see.”

Last year sister Venus said, “I heard being married is tough. [You] have to stick around, be supportive, listen. It seems really hard.” But last week Venus seemed to change her tune. She said Serena is “much smarter than I am. She’s getting a real life. She’s paving the way once again for me. Maybe I’ll grow up.” 

Some noted that after dating many African-Americans, Serena was now engaged to a white man. She told www.18caratreggae, “When I date someone I never see color. I date who I have chemistry with, but I must say Alexis has treated me better than any black man I have dated.”

And here’s a curious twist. The other great women’s player of our era, Steffi Graf, married Andre Agassi, who, like Ohanian, is of Armenian origin.

Anyway, after Serena’s impressive quarterfinal win over Brit Jo Konta, we approached Ohanian. Of course, he didn’t have a clue who we were, so we mentioned the Bay Area, where we’re from, and Brooklyn, where he grew up, in order to get him to grant us an interview. He was surprised that someone in Australia would even want to interview him. He kindly accepted our invitation.

INSIDE TENNIS: Hey, Alexis, how about a word with the Bay Area tennis media?

ALEXIS OHANIAN: What Bay Area?

IT: The San Francisco Bay Area, of course. Plus, we could play our Brooklyn card. I could name you the entire 1955 Dodgers starting lineup, you know – Campanella, Hodges, Gilliam etc.

AO: Wow, let’s do it.

IT: What makes Serena such a wonderful person?

AO: Wow, there are a lot of things. I think the big thing you get to see on the court is just how much heart she has, and that, I think in a lot of ways, defines her as a person and that is very special.

IT: She cares so much?

AO: Yes. She pushes herself harder than anyone. She just has an energy and a warmth that you want to be around. 

IT: And does she have a fun side, a playful side?

AO: Oh, yeah, all you’ve got to do is follow her on Snapchat. I’m biased, but I often use her as an example of how powerful social media platforms can be – like Snapchat or Reddit. But seeing her on Snapchat lets you see her, whether she’s goofing around with filters or making tacos. She obviously works and trains very, very hard, but she can be very silly, too.

IT: So, Alexis, you have been so successful as an entrepreneur, and Serena is so successful on court. What’s the one link you see between entrepreneurship and the sport of tennis?

AO: Well, I’ll tell you, that’s interesting – good question. You really have to be focused in both.

IT: So, Alexis, are you going to be a good tennis spouse?

AO: Oh yeah, of course.