Serena Williams is arguably the greatest tennis player in the history of the sport and her husband Alexis Ohanian, one of the most prominent figures in tech. A chance meeting in an Italian hotel brought the pair together, and seven years and a baby later, these two continue to define and epitomize the term power couple.
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Serena and her sister Venus were grasping the technical facets of tennis before turning five, when most children are still learning to print their names. Coached by parents Oracene Price and Richard Williams, Serena evolved into the most dominant force in tennis, a reputation that vaulted her into becoming a cultural icon. And with her combination of captivating personality and undeniable talent, how could she not? Her mother, Oracene, taught herself the sport so she could coach Serena and Venus and her father Richard, famously outlined an 85-page coaching plan as soon as the two were born. With parents like that, excellence might have been the expectation, but even so, it’s safe to say Serena exceeded even their loftiest hopes.
With 23 Grand Slam wins, the 40-year-old currently holds the most Grand Slam wins in both women’s and men’s competitions. In 2017, she won her seventh Australian Open without losing a single set and while pregnant with her and her husband’s firstborn, Alexis Jr. No one, aside from the couple, Serena’s doctor, and Venus, knew about the pregnancy at the time, and to be able to compete at all in your first trimester, let alone without losing a single set, is perhaps the most impressive feat in sports history (with Jordan’s flu game politely taking a back seat).
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Throughout her career, Serena’s accolades became almost innumerable. And thus, it seemed impossible that she might marry someone whose accomplishments held up to her own. Then, while having breakfast with friends at the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome, a man sat down at the next table.
“This big guy comes and he just plops down at the table next to us, and I’m like, ‘Huh! All these tables and he’s sitting here?'” she told Vanity Fair during her 2017 cover story. In an effort to get Alexis to move, the group told him there was a rat at his table. When the tech entrepreneur didn’t leave, Serena invited him to join her and the rest is, well, history.
Named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in consecutive years, Alexis is best known for co-founding Reddit, the social news/discussion site dominating the internet. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Alexis went to the University of Virginia where he was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. From there, he and his business partner, Steve Huffman, founded Reddit, a site they billed as “the front page of the internet.” Though most well known for his work with Reddit, Alexis’ most impactful, philanthropic work has come behind the scenes. He worked with Rayouf Alhumedhi, the teenager behind the Apple hijab emoji to give her a platform to discuss her ideas and answer questions via an AMA on Reddit back in 2017. Three years later, following the murder of George Floyd, Ohanian resigned from Reddit’s board, asking to be replaced by a Black candidate, a request that was fulfilled less than a week later.
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Since having their daughter Alexis Olympia, Alexis Sr. has also become a strong advocate for paternal leave in the workplace. In an interview with The Guardian, Alexis described his experience both as a first-time father and as a husband whose wife was suffering post-birth complications, and the need to push for federal paid paternity leave.
“I couldn’t imagine going through that as a husband and having to decide or even think for a second about choosing between your wife and your career,” he said. “That is an inhumane choice to expect someone to make in a modern society”.
As a couple, Serena and Alexis have taken on several ventures together and are a core part of an investment group that was awarded a new franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League, set to debut this year. Alexis is the only male in the investment group, working alongside his wife and an array of prominent women investors. As individuals, the pair continue to stun both the sports and tech industries alike. And while their successes have granted their family a life most could hardly imagine, the true “power” behind this duo is their consistent mission to give back and advocate for those left outside the spotlight.