Written by Erin Whiteside, University of Tennessee

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Of the many outstanding components of her game, Serena Williams may best be known for her commanding serve.

Those serves, unleashed over the course of a 27-year professional career, arguably heightened the power and intensity of the women’s game, forcing her opponents to game plan for each wicked volley.

To those chronicling her exploits as one of the world’s best tennis players, Williams served up a different challenge.

As a scholar of sports journalism, I have observed how its practitioners have struggled to find their footing when it comes to establishing consensus about what exactly constitutes good sports journalism.

Williams’ presence as a Black woman in a historically white, patriarchal sport, her commitment to activism and her willingness to bare her personal challenges to the public forced sports journalists to reevaluate professional norms that urged them to focus only on what happened between the lines.