Most sports fans know Serena Williams as arguably the best tennis player ever, but HBO’s new documentary series Being Serena serves up a very intimate look at the personal side of Williams that very few people have seen.
HBO, which is coming off its April Andre The Giant documentary -- the network's most successful sports-themed documentary in 15 years -- delivers a five-part documentary series that follows Williams from the 2017 Australian Open, which she won while pregnant, through her health complications in delivering her daughter, to her determination to get back on the court and reclaim her crown as the top tennis player in the world.
On the tennis court Serena is to be feared, dominating the court and staring down defeat in a very business-like manner. Very early in the documentary however, Williams is shown to be prone to fear and insecurity as she questions whether she can balance being a loving and strong mother to her daughter while being the driven, competitive and successful athlete she’s been since she and her sister Venus arrived on the tennis scene some two decades ago.
In a poignant moment of reflection during the first two hours of the series, Williams fully showcases her doubts about her tennis future while at the same time her unyielding desire to compete by simply stating, “I don’t know if there is anything left for me in tennis, but I know I’m not done yet.”
Sports fans looking for a documentary on Williams’ tennis career will be disappointed as match highlights are few and far between. Instead, the documentary spends most of the time chronicling Williams’ off the court life – including the birth of her daughter as well as preparing for her wedding to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian -- in often intimate detail that at times might make some viewers a bit squeamish.
Overall Being Serena offers viewers with fascinating insight into one of the greatest athletes of our time.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.