July 14, 2019 / 1:08 AM / in a month

Serena to fight for equality until 'the grave'

(Reuters) - Beaten Wimbledon finalist Serena Williams has said she has no plans to give up fighting for equality to focus solely on her tennis.

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 13, 2019 Serena Williams of the U.S. is interviewed by Sue Barker after losing the final against Romania's Simona Halep REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Williams’s hopes of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles were dashed again on Saturday with a crushing straight sets defeat by Romanian Simona Halep.

Women’s great Billie Jean King said she felt Williams was spreading herself too thin in an interview midway through the tournament and urged the American to stop “being a celebrity” for a year and a half.

“She’s got a baby, she’s trying to help gender equity, particularly women of color. But it makes it much harder,” 12-times Grand Slam champion King told the BBC.

“I would like her to put everything else aside, because she’s got people working on those things.

“I wish she would just make a commitment for the next year and a half to two years and say, ‘I’m going to absolutely focus on what’s necessary for my tennis, so when I look in the mirror when I’m older, then I can go back in my mind and know I gave it everything I had.’”

Williams, who has been outspoken in pushing for gender and racial equality, was asked in her post-match media conference whether she should focus more on her tennis than on social issues and being a celebrity.

“The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me, will be the day I am in my grave,” the 37-year-old said.

King, herself a celebrated pioneer in gender equality and social justice, later clarified her comments on Twitter.

“I would never ask anyone to stop fighting for equality,” the American 75-year-old wrote.

“In everything she does, Serena shines a light on what all of us must fight for in order to achieve equality for all.”

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom

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