9 Things We Learned From Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian’s Love Story

Taryn Ryder

Serena Williams has kept her relationship with Alexis Ohanian private over the last two years, but thanks to Vanity Fair, we have learned more about the pair’s love story.

Williams, 35, and Ohanian, 34, are opening up about how they went from knowing nothing about one another (literally) to getting ready to have a baby and walk down the aisle together.

So how did the Reddit co-founder really woo the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world? Their story is one worth knowing about. Here are 9 things we learned from the Vanity Fair profile.

Their “meet cute” involves rats
Williams and Ohanian met on May 12, 2015, at the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome, Italy. The Champ was in town for the Italian Open, while Ohanian was speaking at a tech conference. They ended up sitting next to each other near the pool for breakfast.

“This big 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 tells the magazine. For the record, Ohanian maintains that the pool area was “not quite so empty.”

Someone in Williams’s crew tried to get Ohanian away from them, explaining there was a rat by his table and that he wouldn’t want to sit there.

“We were trying to get him to move and get out of there,” Serena said. “He kind of refuses and he looks at us. And he’s like, ‘Is there really a rat here?'”

The first words Williams ever said to him were: “No, we just don’t want you sitting there. We’re going to use that table.”

“I’m from Brooklyn. I see rats all the time,” Ohanian quipped.

When Williams realized he clearly wasn’t afraid of rats, she invited Ohanian to join her group.

Ohanian had “no respect” for tennis before meeting Williams
When the rat conversation was going down, Ohanian was only “98 percent sure” he was talking to Serena Williams. A fan of football and basketball, he admits he “never watched a match on television or in real life.”

“It was literally the sport — even if ESPN was announcing tennis updates, I would just zone out,” he confesses. “I really had no respect for tennis.”

Luckily, Ohanian kept that to himself and accepted an invitation from the tennis star’s girlfriend to attend the match later that night.

Williams didn’t know what Reddit was
Williams admitted that she knew nothing Ohanian’s world either — but she didn’t let him know that right away. During the same conversation, she pretended she had been on Reddit earlier that day.

“Oh, were you? What do you like about it?” he asked.

Serena gave a very long “Wellllll … ” and was saved by friends who jumped in. She eventually veered the conversation towards her website and whether she should have an app.

“This is an interesting, charming, beautiful woman,” Alexis recalled thinking.

Williams gave him her number so he could “give some feedback” on her site (sure); however, he had just gotten out of a 5-year relationship and wasn’t thinking about anything romantic… yet.

Their first date was in Paris
Later that month, Williams texted Ohanian to meet her in Paris and come watch her at the French Open. He accepted, but said he tried not to read too much into the invitation.

“Even if she blows me off and we don’t even hang out, I’m still going to have an amazing time in Paris, and I’ll have an even better story for all my childhood friends when I was like, ‘Yeah, I went to Paris for a weekend,” he said. “I was supposed to meet up with Serena Williams, she blew me off, but I’ve got other friends there, and we had a great time.'”

However, the pair ended up strolling around the City of Love, taking in the sights and having an impressive 6-hour first date.

Ohanian knew he’d marry Williams thanks to FaceTime
The pair began dating, but it wasn’t until nearly a year later that Ohanian knew he would marry her. Why? Because she FaceTimed him on his birthday when they couldn’t be together.

That was significant since Williams is a Jehovah’s Witness and part of the religion involves not observing birthdays. “I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self,” Ohanian tells the Vanity Fair. “I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.”

Williams almost ruined the entire proposal
Ohanian proposed on December 10, 2016, at the place where he and Williams first met: at the Cavalieri in Rome. However, it was thisclose to not happening.

The entrepreneur spent months figuring out how to get to his then-girlfriend to Italy and at the last moment, she tried to cancel as she wanted to begin training for the Australian Open. Knowing his intentions for the trip, all of her friends tried to find creative ways to get her to Rome. Eventually, he had to do it himself under the disguise of a “spontaneous” trip… and the unsuspecting bride-to-be was “livid.”

However, after she got on the plane, she realized Ohanian flew her out so he could pop the question. “I knew it was coming,” she admitted. “I was like, ‘Serena, you’re 35, you’re ready. This is what you want.'”

Ohanian picked the same room they had shared a year prior, took her to the same table where they first met two years earlier, and asked her to marry him. Naturally, on the table was a little plastic rat.

The pregnancy was a shock
About a week before the Australian Open began in January 2017, Williams could tell that she felt off. A friend finally convinced her to take a pregnancy test. “I’ll take it just because (a) to prove you wrong and (b) because it’s fun, whatever. It’s like a joke. Why not?” Serena recalled.

She took the test before heading to an event in Australia.

“I put it down. I went back to finishing hair and makeup, was laughing, talking… I totally forgot about it because it was impossible for me,” she said. “So I went back to get dressed and I went back in the bathroom and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that test.””

Serena “did a double take” when the test came back positive and her “heart dropped.”

“Oh my God, this can’t be — I’ve got to play a tournament,” Williams said. “How am I going to play the Australian Open? I had planned on winning Wimbledon this year.”

Her friend had to go to the hotel pharmacy and buy five more test kits to convince her.

When Williams told Ohanian he had to fly out to Melbourne early, he got on the flight thinking there was a health-related emergency with his fiancée. When he arrived, she simply handed him a paper bag with the six positive pregnancy tests and didn’t say a word.

Williams and Ohanian have a bi-coastal, but normal relationship
Until the wedding, the couple are living on opposite coasts. However, they still try to see each other every weekend. Apparently when they are together, they are “largely homebodies” who enjoy cooking with each other and playing the game Heads Up!

They can’t wait to get married
The pair are eager to start the rest of their lives together, even though it all still seems so surreal. “If you would have told me last year in October or November that I would have a baby, not be pregnant but have a baby, I would have thought you were the biggest liar in the world. This is kind of how I am right now. This is happening sooner than later, and it’s going by so fast.”

“I’m trying to enjoy the little freedom I have left,” Williams laughs.

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