EXCERPT: 'On The Line'

PHOTO The cover for the book "On the Line" by Serena Williams is shown.

Serena Williams has won every major title in tennis. In her memoir, "On The Line," Williams describes how she worked her way up to become one of the top women's players worldwide.

For Williams, tennis practice first started in the tough neighborhood of Compton, Calif., where her father trained her on public tennis courts filled with broken glass. Over the years, she has had to overcome injury and cope with her sister's tragic shooting. Off the court, she has made her mark in philanthropy, fashion, television and film using her trademark determination.

Read an excerpt of the book below and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.

VIDEO: Serena Williams tirade ended the match in the U.S. Open semi-finals.


Chapter One

Ride a Little, Bump a Little

My first tennis memory? People always ask about it, but I'm afraid I don't have one. I just remember playing, all the time. It's like tennis was always there, like going to services at Kingdom Hall. Like breathing. I saw a picture once of Venus pushing me in a stroller on a tennis court, but I don't actually remember this moment. I've seen pictures of me holding a racquet taken around the time I started to walk. I don't remember those moments, either. I've heard all the stories, of course. The ones that have somehow passed into urban tennis legend, and the ones that still get kicked around in my family. Some of them are even true.

Best anyone can recall: I was three years old. It was a Saturday afternoon, maybe Sunday. My parents took us out to the public courts at a park in Lynwood, California, not far from where we lived. It was a total family affair. There was me, my older sister Venus, and my mom and dad, together with our older sisters Lyndrea, Isha, and Yetunde. The older girls had been playing for a time, while I had been trudging along, but then one day my dad announced that I was ready to take my swings, too. He put a standard, regulation-size racquet in my hand and positioned me a couple feet from the net. Then he climbed to the other side and started soft-tossing until I managed to hit a couple over.

"Just look at the ball, Serena," he kept saying, in that patient tone and sweet Louisiana drawl I'd come to hear in my dreams. "Just swing."

Years later, he took to calling me Meeka—a variation on my middle name, Jameka. Tunde pinned that nickname on me when I was about six and it stuck, and I used to love to hear it from my father. He still calls me Meeka, and whenever he does it puts me in mind of how things were between us when I was little, when I was first learning to really play. Say what you will about my dad (and folks have said an awful lot over the years), he had a gentle demeanor when he wanted to, especially when we were just starting out. He made a game out of it, encouraging me to swing as hard as I could. Didn't matter to him where I hit the ball, or how I hit it, just that I hit it.

After every toss, he'd offer a word of encouragement, a point of praise:

"Good job, Serena."

"Way to go."

"That's it."

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...