Serena Williams Addresses Racism, Feminism and Return Date in Vogue Interview

Serena Williams says she may be perceived as "mean" by sections of the public due to the color of her skin.

Williams, 35, is not playing at all this year due to pregnancy but told Vogue Magazine in an interview that she wanted to return as soon as January to defend her Australian Open title.

She also addressed her public image and said she wonders if the tennis-watching public sees someone like Maria Sharapova as "nicer" simply because Sharapova is white.

"I feel like people think I'm mean," Williams said. "Really tough and really mean and really street. I believe that the other girls in the locker room will say, 'Serena's really nice.' But Maria Sharapova, who might not talk to anybody, might be perceived by the public as nicer. Why is that? Because I'm black and so I look mean? That's the society we live in. That's life. They say African-Americans have to be twice as good, especially women. I'm perfectly OK with having to be twice as good."

Williams, who is having a child with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, has won 23 Grand Slam titles, the most for a woman in the Open Era. Despite her achievements she has faced sexist criticism, most recently from John McEnroe who claimed in June Williams would struggle to beat the world number 700 in the men's game. In the Vogue interview she also addressed frequent negative remarks about her body, claiming she has learned to see her power as a virtue.

"As I've gotten older I've started to feel differently about it," Williams said. "Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. So now on the court I want people to think that I'm powerful. But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different."