Serena Williams has heard nasty comments throughout her career. But she’s never let it stop her.
“I think any experience can make you stronger,” Williams says in “Firsts,” TIME’s multimedia project featuring candid interviews with 46 groundbreaking women. “I don’t let anything break me.”
Being in the spotlight as a superstar tennis player who became the first to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era has made Williams a target for attacks over her body, her gender, and the color of her skin.
“It isn’t always easy to be on the stage playing a tournament and have someone making a comment about your body, that it’s too strong,” Williams says. “I think the biggest criticism that, not only me, but my peers go through is there will be something saying we don’t deserve as much prize money as our male counterparts. When you work so hard, you dedicate yourself. It shouldn’t be a double standard.”