Serena Williams has had to play through some serious headaches.
In a new interview with People, the tennis icon revealed that she has long struggled with “debilitating” migraines.
The 38-year-old said she first started experiencing the “throbbing pain” of the migraines in her 20s but found it difficult to explain why the sunlight was causing her pain during practices.
“Migraine isn’t a knee injury — it’s something you can’t physically see,” she explained. “You can’t really say, ‘Oh, Dad, I have a migraine. I’m going to stop playing.’ People are like, ‘I don’t see swelling. I don’t see bruising. Tough it out.’ I got used to playing through the pain.”
Williams also said that there were many matches she played which were affected by her migraines, including a 2001 match she lost to Martina Hingis in Sydney.
“You can’t go into a press conference with the media asking, ‘Well, what happened?’ and say ‘Well I had a migraine attack,’” she said. “I had to figure out a way to work through it.”
The tennis player’s migraines only got worse in recent months as she went into lockdown with husband Alexis Ohanian and their nearly-three-year-old daughter during the pandemic.
“It’s all incredibly stressful,” she said of the pandemic. “I was dealing with a lot of stress and unknown factors and things that I wasn’t used to, and so I think that was contributing to my migraine attacks and making them more frequent.”
She continued, “I would be so intense with the baby all day long, and then, at night, I would have this long migraine.”
Williams also talked about prepping for the upcoming U.S. Open in New York, which will not have a live audience due to the pandemic.
“I’ve always played with such a big crowd,” she said. “Without fans, how will I do? I don’t even know. But I look at it as another experience. A wild experience.”