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Carry on

Globe-trotting tennis legend Serena Williams rarely finds herself in one place for long. Now she has a new side hustle — creating the perfect luggage collection for her travels

Throughout her 26 years (and counting) of professional tennis, there isn’t a corner of the world that Serena Williams hasn’t seen. So it’s no surprise that when the 23-time grand slam winner is locked down and off the competitive court, she still can’t keep her mind off jet-setting. This time, however, her drive doesn’t involve a racket. Instead, she has released an oh so chic collaboration with techy luggage brand Away, featuring 11 different bags, polycarbonate cases and pouches that would satiate anyone’s appetite — whether they’re clocking the air miles or not.

When not in the midst of a global crisis, Williams finds herself away from home most of the year, she tells me over the phone. ‘I’m on the road a lot, even if I’m not playing tennis. Around 20 weeks a year is the bare minimum and that’s if I’m injured for the whole year. If I’m not injured, I am never at home.’ A big fan of Miami, San Francisco and Paris, Williams says she can never get enough of Italy’s capital city, Rome. ‘I love the food and the culture, and I walk down the street and think of all the history that’s taken place there. It’s pretty awesome.’

Despite being outed by her mother, Oracene Price, as a notoriously bad packer in 2018, Williams says she’s become much better at the art — now her luggage range even includes colour co-ordinated packing cubes. ‘I have so many things that I travel with, it’s just hard to minimise. Every time I [try to] minimise it’s like: “Okay, that’s an extra bag.” I remember I used to travel with two suitcases and I’m really like: “How did I do that?”’

For Away co-founder Jen Rubio, Williams was always the top woman for the job. ‘Serena is the definition of a modern, dynamic traveller,’ she says. ‘She’s non-stop. Whether it’s travelling the world for tennis, cherishing every moment with her family, being a business leader or supporting other entrepreneurs, Serena truly manages to bring her authentic self to everything she does.’

While unnerving, lockdown has provided much-needed time to reflect for Williams. ‘I was able to spend time with my mum and my dad [at home in Palm Beach, Florida]. We created this big bubble, my daughter got crazy close with my dad and I was excited about that. It’s time that you can’t buy. I was really happy that the whole world seemed to take a second to think, to take a deep breath and slow down.’

She didn’t stay off the court for long, though. ‘You could still play tennis and be distant and safe. I feel like we got off easier than other sports.’ Her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, aged three, is getting involved now, too. ‘She has a coach, which is quite hilarious.’ And Williams is keen to give Alexis some breathing space. ‘I think it’s better for her to not have me there because either we have too much fun or she doesn’t take it seriously.’

Does she hope her little one will follow in her footsteps? ‘Oh gosh, that’s up to her. She’s such a baby I can’t say that. I know a lot of parents have ideas for their kids, but not me, I’m letting her make her own shots.’ If her drive is anything like her mother’s and aunt Venus’s, she’ll be firing off winning serves in no time, and the mini suitcase her mother designed for her will come in handy.