Serena Williams Wasn't Excited to Send Olympia, 3, to Tennis Lessons: 'We Started Because It's Socially Safe'

Julie Mazziotta
·2-min read

AbbVie/UBRELVY Serena Williams and daughter Olympia

With an unknown number of months of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming and an active 3-year-old at home, Serena Williams and husband Alexis Ohanian had a question familiar to many parents last fall: How are we going to keep our kid entertained?

And as a 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion, she knew the solution was getting Olympia on the court for lessons — even if Williams wasn't too happy about it.

"Honestly, we started because it's a socially safe sport, and when COVID happened, it was like, we're just in the house with a 3-year-old, what do we do?" Williams tells PEOPLE. "There was only one answer, to my dismay."

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Williams did go into "tennis mom" mode before Olympia's her first lesson in October, she posted on Instagram at the time, and joked that the instructor "has no idea that it's my daughter, so we'll see how that goes."

"I'm not a pushy mom, but I know how I like techniques, I want to make sure she's good at teaching Olympia some techniques," she added.

And so far, Williams tells PEOPLE, Olympia "likes going."

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Olympia is following in her mom's footsteps in other ways too, like joining Williams for her latest campaign with Ubrelvy, a medication to stop migraine attacks that the tennis star started using last year. In the new commercial, Olympia is seen waking up with her mom and playing on the tennis court.

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"It was easy," Williams says of having her daughter on set. "I mean, we are still living in a really tough time with the COVID world, so we try to keep our sets clear and clean and safe as possible. Especially for young kids. But it just made a lot of sense, and now she loves to be with me, so I'm loving that."

Getting more time with Olympia has been one perk of the pandemic that Williams has appreciated, especially when most tournaments were canceled.

"We've definitely been able to spend more time together and I love spending every minute with her," Williams says. "It's so cool."