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Serena Williams on How Getting Married, Starting Family Helped Her Realize There’s ‘More to Life’

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While Serena Williams has reached the highest of heights in the world of tennis, the 23-time Grand Slam champion says she needed time to learn how to enjoy her wins.

“A lot of people talk about how hard work pays off and that’s true,” she tells PEOPLE. “Playing tennis all my life has just been work, work, work. But sometimes it’s good to take a brief step back and enjoy the moment.”

Williams — who stars in a new Super Bowl ad from Michelob ULTRA that explores how joy plays a role in achieving success — says she didn’t begin to slow down and enjoy her victories until she had a conversation with someone who suggested she not immediately focus on the next match.

“As crazy as that sounds, and as weird as that sounds, I just needed to learn how to do that,” she explains. “I needed to just really have a chance to enjoy celebration.”

The Michelob commercial also features appearances from NFL legend Peyton Manning, Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers and golfer Brooks Koepka, among others.

In it, Williams sings karaoke while spending time with some of her real-life friends — something she cherishes even more in the year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I love hanging out with my friends more than anything. I think I love it more now since COVID has made it so hard to have an opportunity to even see your friends or to hang out with them,” the 39-year-old says. “That’s been super exciting for me, to just be with them.”

Williams also says the happiness she’s found in her husband, Alexis Ohanian, and their 3-year-old daughter, Olympia, has had a profound effect on her.

“It gives me a lot of reason beyond what I do, and so, it’s really important,” she says. “I’ve been so focused on my career my whole life, but when I had a family and got married, I realized that there’s so much more to life. And that was great.”

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But, as Williams — who is overseas as she prepares to participate in the Australian Open in February — knows well, life doesn’t always go as planned. Whether it’s injuries or losses, she has learned to refocus when potential milestones turn into setbacks.

“Not everything’s going to be perfect, not everything’s going to be great,” she says. “You can’t go anywhere and expect, ‘Oh, I’m going to be perfect in everything. I’m going to win everything. I’m going to do everything.’ ”

“It’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about how many times you get up. That is most important. And it’s really good to just keep your mindset that way,” Williams adds. “And that’s what I’ve always said, really, a champion isn’t defined on how many wins they have, but how they recover when they fall.”

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