The moment: Serena Williams challenges the French Open’s strict dress code – twice
The lesson: Don’t be afraid to be authentic
Serena Williams forges her own path, regardless of what others think. Case in point: her unique on-court style. She’s worn tutus, sure, but what really got everyone talking was her custom-made Nike catsuit at the 2018 French Open. Not only was it designed with her health in mind (the outfit was engineered to prevent blood clots, something the athlete suffered with after the birth of her daughter), but it also made her “feel like a superhero”. However, French officials said the outfit went “too far”, banning it for not “respect[ing] the game”. Fast forward to 2019? Williams debuted a two-piece set emblazoned with the words ‘Mother’, ‘Goddess’, ‘Queen’ and ‘Champion’ in French.
Williams’ outfits cause a stir, but she continues to make a statement regardless. “That’s a critical skill,” says Simpson. “It’s not easy to be brave and not care what people think, because a lot of us do. But if you can adopt that type of attitude, then it will really help you in life, in terms of success and performances. It’s important to live your life and not someone else’s.” Take a leaf out of Williams’ playbook and challenge yourself to do something you’re afraid of because of what others might think, says life coach and director of Upstairs Coaching Alex Kingsmill. “Find a way to take a single step towards [it]. It doesn’t have to be huge – maybe it’s doing a dance class or speaking in public. Push your own boundaries a little.” You’ve got this.
The moment: Naomi Osaka supports a devastated Coco Gauff at the US Open
The lesson: Aim to lift other women up, always
Tennis can ignite a fierce rivalry, but also true moments of connection. After defeating 15-year-old Coco Gauff (above left) in straight sets at the US Open in 2019, Naomi Osaka invited the visibly emotional teenager to join her for her post-match, on-court interview. After calling Gauff and her parents “amazing”, Osaka said of the act, “I thought about what I wanted her to feel leaving the court.
I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad. I want her to be aware that she’s accomplished so much, and she’s still so young.” The moment warmed hearts and made headlines for its humility and grace.
This sportswomanship and kindness is something we can weave into our professional lives. Kingsmill says, “One of the big things I see people speaking about in the workplace is a fear that if they support other women, there’ll be less of the pie for them. These interactions [between Osaka and Gauff] speak to the opposite. Treating another woman well doesn’t detract from what you have. Lifting someone else up elevates you. There is a huge strength and power in women supporting other women.”
The moment: Ash Barty graciously accepts her Wimbledon loss
The lesson: Never let disappointment derail you
There’s heaps to love about Ash Barty – her down-to-earth attitude and love of throwing Disney quotes into post-match press conferences – but, it’s the Aussie champ’s resilience that we want to copy and paste into our own lives. Fresh from being a newly minted world number one, Barty went into Wimbledon 2019 as a red-hot favourite – only to be knocked out in the fourth round to unseeded Alison Riske. Instead of having a Nick Kyrgios-sized tantrum, she said, “It’s not the end of the world … I do everything in my power to try and win every single tennis match. But that’s not the case. It’s disappointing right now. Give me an hour or so, we’ll be all good. The sun’s still going to come up tomorrow.
That ability to look at loss with perspective is a key to success. “[Barty] looks at life as bigger than that single experience. [It’s about] positioning loss in context,” explains Kingsmill. Simpson adds that Barty seems to be as focused on the process as the outcome. “She’s about learning from her performances,” she explains. “Champions make mistakes as much as other people, they just learn from them and move on much quicker to the next focus point.” Fun fact: Barty credits her sense of perspective to her work with mindset coach Ben Crowe, who has also mentored surfing champ Stephanie Gilmore and the Aussie cricket team.