Serena claims gender bias
Williams says she would have been considered tennis' best ever long ago if she was male
Serena Williams said that she would have been considered the greatest tennis player of all time years ago had she been a man.
The 35-year-old made the comment during a revealing in-depth interview with ESPN conducted by her former boyfriend Common, a Grammy-winning rapper.
The American world No. 2 has won 22 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals and held the world No. 1 ranking for 186 weeks - the joint-longest in WTA history, alongside Steffi Graf.
Williams is also level with the German for most Major titles in the Open era and is two behind Margaret Court's record of 24.
Said Williams: "I think if I were a man, I would have been in that conversation (about being the greatest ever) a long time ago," Williams said.
"I think being a woman is just a whole new set of problems from society that you have to deal with, as well as being black.
"So, it's a lot to deal with - and especially lately.
"I've been able to speak up for women's rights because I think that gets lost in colour, or gets lost in cultures.
"Women make up so much of this world, and, yeah, if I were a man, I would have 100 per cent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago."
Williams added that she stopped reading media reports about herself from a young age because she felt scrutinised for being "black and confident".
There was a time when I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body... And now my body is in style, so I’m feeling good about it.World No. 2 Serena Williams on her physique
She explained: "I'm so focused on what I need to do to be the best I can be - and then better.
"At a very young age, I think I was 17, I stopped reading any press about me.
"I think that helped me avoid a lot of the scrutiny, and I kind of put myself in a bubble.
"I feel like I definitely was scrutinised because I was confident - I was black and I was confident. And I am black and I am confident.
"But I would say, 'I feel like I can be No. 1.'
"Well, why shouldn't I say that? If I don't think I'm going to be the best, why do I play?"
In addition to her confidence, Williams' powerful physique has also received a lot of scrutiny.
She joked that while she wasn't always comfortable with her body, she's glad her physique is now "in style".
Said the 35-year-old: "There was a time when I didn't feel incredibly comfortable about my body because I felt like I was too strong.
"I had to take a second and think, 'Who says I'm too strong? This body has enabled me to be the greatest player that I can be.'
"And now my body is in style, so I'm feeling good about it," she added while laughing.
"I'm finally in style! It took a while to get there.
"I'm just really thankful for the way I was brought up by my mum and my dad to give me that confidence.
"I could have been discouraged, and I wouldn't be as great as I am because I would have done different exercises or I would have done different things.
"I totally embrace who I am and what I am." - WIRE SERVICES