Serena Williams’ Strange Superstitions May Reveal a Foot Fixation

Tennis players are some of the most superstitious athletes. Rafael Nadal obsessively arranges his water bottles at the court’s edge. Andre Agassi stopped wearing underwear to his matches. Yet no list of superstitious tennis players would be complete without Serena Williams.

It turns out that one of the greatest tennis stars of all time is also one of the most superstitious, especially when it comes to her feet. Let’s look at Williams’ impressive numerous foot-centric tics.

Serena Williams’ shoe-lacing superstition

Serena Williams addresses a foot problem
Serena Williams addresses a foot problem | HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images

Like most sports, tennis has its own special type of footwear designed for optimal performance. What many fans don’t know is that what we call “tennis shoes” aren’t actually meant for playing tennis. True pros like Serena wear specially engineered shoes designed to provide an optimal blend of traction, support, and ease.

Like casual shoes, tennis shoes use laces to ensure a snug fit. If a shoe comes unlaced during a match, the player risks both injury and distraction. Perhaps in order to guarantee a secure fit, Williams has developed a superstition about the way she ties her shoes. Before every single match, she laces them according to a stringent personal habit.

Williams’ tying superstition is engrained in her game to the degree that it’s about far more than just keeping her shoes on tight. In the past, she’s even chalked up certain losses to not tying her shoes correctly, saying “I’m not losing because I didn’t play well; I lost because I didn’t tie my shoe the right way.”

Other foot-related superstitions

Lace-tying isn’t Williams’ only foot-related superstition. She is also consistent about bringing her shower sandals to the court with her before every match. Williams also has a somewhat stinky superstition regarding the socks she wears at tournaments. So long as Williams keeps winning, she will continue to wear the same pair of unwashed socks until the end of the tournament.

Of course, even a player as superstitious as Williams can do without her rituals from time to time. Just take a look at her impromptu match against former Late Show host David Letterman. Not only does Williams easily handle Letterman in a pair of heels and no socks, but she also shatters a plate glass window just to show how powerful a tennis stroke she has.

Williams’ other superstitions

Williams has plenty of superstitions that don’t involve her feet. For one thing, she has an odd ball-bouncing ritual before each of her serves. If it is her first serve, she’ll bounce the ball exactly five times. Before second serves, on the other hand, Williams bounces the ball just twice.

The ritual clearly has a positive effect, as Williams holds the all-time Wimbledon record of 102 tournament aces. She also has an odd superstition when it comes to her on-court movements. After the first game, Williams will always cross the net on the opposite side from the chair umpire.

Meanwhile, friends and family sitting in her player box must maintain the exact same positions for every single match. Apparently any changes in her guests’ seating order will throw her off her game. Even a relatively minor distraction like this can have huge ramifications when playing at the elite level.