This unlikely duo makes the perfect match. Serena Williams opened up about her relationship with fiancé Alexis Ohanian in a new cover story for Vanity Fair, and it’s clear from the tennis champ’s perspective that fans weren’t the only ones who were surprised by their love story.
The future husband and wife duo first met at a hotel in Rome—poolside, to be exact—in May 2015, and began dating shortly after that. Though the duo are both megastars in their respective fields (Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam champion, and Ohanian co-founded Reddit in 2005), neither knew much about the other’s realm of expertise.
But fast-forward to December 2016, when Williams surprised the world with a diamond sparkler on her ring finger, and it’s clear that opposites do indeed attract. Below, The Knot rounds up the five most surprising things Williams revealed in her Vanity Fair interview.
1. Williams and Ohanian’s First Conversation Revolved Around Rats.
On May 12, 2015, both Williams and Ohanian found themselves at the same hotel in Rome; Williams was in town to compete in the Italian Open, and Ohanian was there for a tech conference. The tennis champ was chatting with friends by the pool when Ohanian approached their group and sat on a nearby chair.
“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?‘” Williams recounted to the magazine. Ohanian, on his part, maintained that the pool area was “not quite so empty.”
One member of Williams’ group tried to shoo Ohanian way, pointing out that there were rats by the table next to them, but the tech guru stayed put. Williams remembered her first words to her future husband: “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 responded. He hung around.
2. Ohanian Had Never Watched a Tennis Match Before Meeting Williams.
The Reddit founder told the magazine he was more a fan of football and basketball, but had never bothered to watch a tennis game, in person or on TV. “It was literally the sport—even if ESPN was announcing tennis updates, I would just zone out,” he said. “I really had no respect for tennis.”
3. But Williams Didn’t Know What Reddit Was Either.
The athlete didn’t want to seem like a luddite, so she pretended to know all about Reddit when the pair chatted by the pool that day, even noting that she had just been on the platform that day. But when Ohanian tried to grill her on how she like the site, she blanked.
She gave a prolonged,“Wellllll … ” and was saved by friends who jumped into the conversation. She eventually veered the conversation toward her website and asked Ohanian for his opinion on whether or not she should have an app. When the pair parted ways, they promised to keep in touch, ostensibly for the sake of her site.
4. Their First Date Was in Paris, and Lasted Six Hours.
Later that same month, Williams invited Ohanian to meet her in Paris for the French Open, an invitation that the tech exec happily accepted without reservation. “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 of his decision to say yes. “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.’”
The pair instead did end up exploring Paris together, strolling through the City of Lights and getting to know each other over the course of six hours.
5. Serena Knew He Was Ready to Propose… And Here’s Why.
Ohanian planned a spontaneous trip to Italy for the pair in December 2016, but Williams already knew something was up his sleeve. “I knew it was coming,” she said. “I was like, ‘Serena, you’re 35, you’re ready. This is what you want.’” Ohaniana popped the question at the very same table where they’d first had a conversation about rats.
One month later, they discovered that they’re expecting. The baby is due this fall, after the pair get married.
“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,” she told the magazine. “This is kind of how I am right now. This is happening sooner than later, and it’s going by so fast.”