INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - After coming through a top-quality battle against Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, Serena Williams was asked for her thoughts on the pay gap that continues to exist in other women's sports, namely, women's soccer.?
In light of the news that the United States Women's National Soccer Team filed suit in pursuit of equal pay, Serena pointed to the history of the WTA and the pioneering vision of Billie Jean King.?
"I do know that the pay discrepancy is ludicrous [in soccer]," Serena told reporters.?
"It's a battle. It's a fight. We have had some incredible pioneers in our sport that stood up in the '70s and said, with this dollar, those women said we're going to get paid what the men get paid. They stood up way back then.
"I think at some point, in every sport, you have to have those pioneers, and maybe it's the time for soccer. I'm playing because someone else stood up, and so what they are doing right now is hopefully for the future of women's soccer."
Serena's comments came on International Women's Day, and the theme of women's equality and empowerment was a frequent one in the Indian Wells interview room.?
After Serena and Azarenka shared a heartfelt moment at the net after their high-quality duel, both were asked about the current tenor of the WTA locker room when it came to friendships.
Azarenka rejected one reporter's implication that the tour was a frosty place.?
"I would disagree with you," Azarenka said. "I don't think it's maybe visible as much, but there are a lot of friendships on the tour.
"I actually had a wonderful time in Acapulco getting to know my doubles partner [Zheng Saisai]. I have never really played with her. I knew about her, but we got to hang out in Acapulco and play doubles. She's an amazing girl.
"I feel that there are a few players that are in their own lane, let's put it that way, and they just want to focus on themselves, so it's up to them. But I don't think it's a tendency in the tour. I really don't."
Serena agreed. "[Friendships] are not super common with a lot of top players, but recently, I think in the past few years, it's been more common than it was when I first came on tour. I'm close with a lot of the ladies on tour. So I think it's getting more common, and it's great because a lot of us travel. We see each other more than sometimes we see our own family members.
"I feel like we, in the group in the locker room, have gotten more supportive than it was when I first came on tour and just grinding every week. We play against them, but they are also our colleagues, and I feel like that's how I try to look at it."
Continuing with the theme, Azarenka was also asked about the recent Nike commercial, which Serena narrated, which celebrated the more vulnerable and emotional moments in women's sports. The ad featured a clip of Azarenka in tears in her Australian Open press conference in January, when she voiced her frustrations after her early exit.
"I felt that it was an amazing moment for women in sport," Azarenka said. "I feel that [Nike] showed great vulnerability that does exist and what people don't really talk about.?
"We talk about being tough, being strong, being focused. And we are all that, but we are also human with vulnerable feelings and emotions. We get hurt, and people see that.
"[On International Women's Day] I felt there were too many comments about, you know, men don't praise themselves. And I was, like, Well, go ahead.
"But why can't we do that and celebrate each other and support each other and show what we are about? We just want to support equality. That's everybody's right. There is no discrimination about men or women. We are just women who want to be better for women.
"It's one of my goals to try to pave the way, you know, for women in sport who have kids right now, and I feel that the Nike ad was in great support with that, and I hope they gonna continue to push those limits, to push those boundaries.
"Because that's what it's all about. For us, Billie Jean King did it 40 years ago, it's up to us to continue to climb up, to not look back, to continue to move forward. I'm really proud to be part of that."