A sliding doors moment in Rome was to thank for the relationship of Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. The rest, as they say, was history.
The powerhouse couple, who married in 2017, are now proud parents to four-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., who is a frequent (and number one) cheerleader at Williams’ tennis matches alongside her dad. The family-of-three are the definition of wholesome—which coincidently is the best way to describe how the tennis great and Reddit founder first got together.
Now, Williams and Ohanian are planning to expand their family as the athlete retires from tennis for good, and it’s a comfort to know that the famous family are closer than ever, even if they won’t be seated centre court.
“I learned that love is an amazing feeling, and if you have an opportunity to feel it, then it’s a special thing,” Williams previously said of finding her soulmate.
Below, we look back at their sweet love story.
May 2015: A chance meeting in Rome
It was May 2015 and Williams was in the midst of competing at the Italian Open in Rome. Meanwhile, Ohanian was preparing for the Festival of Media Global conference, where he would discuss his significant success in co-founding one of the biggest social aggregation and content sites, Reddit. Funnily enough, the conference was also in Rome, and the unsuspecting couple found themselves staying in the exact same hotel.
“This 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?'” Serena explained of the moment she first locked eyes with Ohanian.
The chance encounter resulted in Ohanian receiving a coveted ticket to Serena’s match that day.
June 2015: The Roland Garros
A month after their brief encounter, Williams went out on a limb and invited Ohanian to the French Open. He gladly obliged, flying to Paris to watch the athlete play. On the day of her first match, the pair spent six hours walking around Paris in conversation. They do say Paris is the city of love…
September 2015: The (sort of) soft launch
Not long after meeting Williams, Ohanian clearly became a tennis convert. In September that year, he shared a picture from the courtside of Williams’ game on Day four of the championship.
“Come at the queen, you best not miss,” he wrote.
December 2016: The engagement
The couple kept their relationship quiet for more than a year before delivering an update better than anyone could have hoped: they were engaged.
Williams announced the news via a poem which she shared on Reddit.
“A carriage awaited. Destination: Rome,” she wrote.
“To escort me to my very own “charming”. Back to where our stars first collided,” she continued, revealing that Ohanian had proposed in the same hotel they had met.
“And now it was full circle. At the same table we first met by chance.
“This time he made it not by chance. But by choice. Down on one knee. He said 4 words. And… r/isaidyes,” she finished.
January 2017: A baby on board
Unknown to the world at the time, Williams discovered she was pregnant while in the midst of competing in the Southern Hemisphere in 2017. She confirmed all after taking no less than five pregnancy tests.
“Oh my God, this can’t be—I’ve got to play a tournament,” Serena previously said of the moment in a Vanity Fair profile. “How am I going to play the Australian Open? I had planned on winning Wimbledon this year.”
March 2017: The reveal
Williams and Ohanian kept the pregnancy under wraps for two more months before word spread. Getting on top of the rumours, Williams cleared it up with an Instagram post: “My Dearest Baby, You gave me the strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can’t wait to meet you,” she wrote.
September 2017: Alexis Jr.
The couple welcomed their first child, a baby girl in September.
“Welcome, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., we’re so happy to meet you,” Ohanian shared on Instagram at the time.
“Our little girl is already mama’s perfect sidekick.”
November 2017: New Orleans nuptials
Shortly after Alexis Olympia Jr. was born, Williams and Ohanian married in New Orleans in an intimate ceremony with family and friends present.
Guests included Venus Williams, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Meghan Markle and more.
November 2018: A year of bliss
On their one year wedding anniversary, Williams shared a sweet tribute to her husband: “One year down a lifetime to go,” she wrote alongside a selfie of the pair.
May 2019: Met Gala co-chairs
The couple were named co-chairs of the prestigious Met Gala in 2019, with the sporting legend wearing a stunning yellow and pink Versace gown for the occasion.
“Two working parents get a date night. 😍,” Ohanian shared on Instagram at the time.
August 2022: Williams retires
The couple kept a low profile (bar attending tennis matches) throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and in August 2022, Williams announced that she and Ohanian were hoping to welcome a second child. And, as part of this decision to focus on her growing family, she decided to retire from the sport.
“There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis. But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks,” she said.
Her final Grand Slam took place later that month, with Ohanian and their daughter sitting on the sidelines cheering her on.
May 2023: The chicest pregnancy announcement
Serena pulled off arguably the chicest announcement of her second pregnancy at none other than the Met Gala.
The tennis pro flaunted her growing bump in a black gown by Gucci, while her husband beamed beside her in a classic black tux.
Speaking to one of the evening’s hosts, La La Anthony, Serena said she felt relieved to finally share the joyful news.
Shortly after ascending the Met steps, Williams took to Instagram to confirm the news. “Was so excited when Anna Wintour invited the 3 of us to the Met Gala”, she wrote, alongside a photo of her and her husband.
The following day, she also took to YouTube to share a sweet video of the couple telling their daughter Alexis, 5, the news.
“Oh my god, I’m so excited,” she replies repeatedly, and hugs her mum.