'You have carried me to so many wins and trophies. I'm going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I'm going to miss you.'
Serena Williams, one of the most prominent tennis players of all time and a 23-time grand slam winner, announced on Tuesday that she will "evolve away from tennis" after this year's US Open to focus on "other things that are important to me." Williams—who turns 41 next month—candidly opened up about preparing to bid farewell to her glorious career in an essay published in Vogue magazine and a post shared on Instagram, where she told fans that "the countdown has begun." While the legendary athlete did not specify the timeline for her last match, she hinted that it could be at the US Open, which begins on August 29 in New York.
In Vogue’s September issue, @serenawilliams prepares to say farewell to tennis on her own terms and in her own words. “It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine,” she says. “I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next” https://t.co/6Zr0UXVTH1 pic.twitter.com/YtGtcc18a9— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) August 9, 2022
"There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis. But now, the countdown has begun," Williams wrote on Instagram, sharing the September 2022 Vogue cover, in which she appears along with her 4-year-old daughter Olympia. "I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just (as) exciting Serena. I'm gonna relish these next few weeks." The announcement comes a day after she had her first singles win in more than a year at the Canadian Open.
"Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don't think it's fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family," Williams said in the essay. "Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don't get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. I was one of those annoying women who adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital—although things got super complicated on the other side. And I almost did do the impossible: A lot of people don't realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I'm turning 41 this month [in September], and something's got to give."
Williams admitted that she has "never liked the word retirement. It doesn't feel like a modern word to me. I've been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I'm up to is evolution. I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago, I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."
Williams, the first Black woman since Althea Gibson in 1958 to win a Grand Slam title, has won 73 career singles titles, 23 doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles over the course of her illustrious career, reports CNN. She is only one singles grand slam title behind the all-time record held by Australian Margaret Court.
The star also admitted that she doesn't like to think about her legacy. "I get asked about it a lot, and I never know exactly what to say. But I'd like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all... Over the years, I hope that people come to think of me as symbolizing something bigger than tennis," Williams said.
This Nike ad begins showing a young Serena Williams envisioning herself winning the U.S. Open.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) August 9, 2022
Now, Six U.S. Open titles — and 17 other Grand Slams — later, Williams has announced her plans to retire.
Her final tournament: the 2022 U.S. Open. pic.twitter.com/cuF0VAyXCI
Williams went on to share that while she and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, want to have a second baby, "I definitely don't want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out." Her farewell—whenever it may be—will be a low-key affair," the athlete indicated. "I'm not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment," she said. "I'm terrible at goodbyes, the world's worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I'm going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I'm going to miss you."