The expected retirement of Serena Williams from professional tennis may be bittersweet, but it’s a chance to celebrate her legacy, a University of Guelph sports business researcher says. 

Dr. Katie Lebel poses for a headshot in front of a yellow-brick building and trees
Dr. Katie Lebel

Dr. Katie Lebel is a professor at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, where she researches gender equity, sport fandom, marketing and communications in the Department of Management. She is an affiliated scholar at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, a member of the National Network for Research on Gender Equity in Canadian Sport and a founding scholar of The Collective at Wasserman. 

Lebel says Williams has consistently pushed back against the boundaries of race and gender while redefining expectations around fashion, power dynamics and even motherhood. 

The tennis star has challenged what was thought to be possible for women athletes, modelling how to build a multifaceted brand that goes beyond just sport, says Lebel. 

Williams’s business acumen has led to the development of a venture capitalist portfolio that focuses on female-led businesses, says Lebel. 

By reframing her departure from tennis as “an evolution” rather than a retirement, Williams is continuing to confront “’taken-for-granteds’ in sport by using her platform to highlight the challenges of being a woman in sport,” Lebel says.  

“It’s what we’ve come to expect from her as a trailblazer,” she adds. “We may never be able to truly unpack the many contributions Serena has made nor understand the many obstacles she has overcome along the way.” 

Lebel is available for interviews. 

Dr. Katie Lebel