Sports

Serena Williams Will Retire From Tennis After The U.S. Open

The greatest women’s tennis player will officially step away from the game at the end of this year, as Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport at 41 years old on Tuesday in a lengthy piece she penned for Vogue.

As of now, Williams carries a career 855-153 singles record including 23 grand slam championship wins — 7 Australian Opens, 7 Wimbledons, 6 U.S. Opens, and 3 French Opens — the most in the Open era and one shy of Margaret Court’s 24. She also has 14 doubles grand slam titles with her sister Venus, and a pair of mixed doubles grand slams from 1998 in her trophy room that is so large she sometimes forgets what’s in there. Williams first ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the world in 2002 and has held that title for 319 weeks overall, including a record 186 consecutive week stretch where she dominated the sport.

However, Williams says it’s time for her to focus on her other passions, citing growing her family and pursuit of business interests as the things pulling her away from the court. Even so, there’s some frustration in Williams’ announcement, as she notes that while many of her friends in tennis and other sports feel relief when they retire, she “hates it,” noting that if she was a man she wouldn’t have to make this decision and could pursue a Tom Brady or Tiger Woods-like longevity.

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. 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, and something’s got to give.

I’m going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to look at this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis. This sport has given me so much. I love to win. I love the battle. I love to entertain. I’m not sure every player sees it that way, but I love the performance aspect of it—to be able to entertain people week after week. Some of the happiest times in my life were spent waiting in that hallway in Melbourne, and walking out into Rod Laver Arena with my earphones in and trying to stay focused and drown out the noise but still feeling the energy of the crowd. Night matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows. Hitting an ace on set point.

Williams says she will dive into the business world further with her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, as well as looking to have another child with husband Alexis Ohanian after their daughter, Olympia, has been not so subtle about her desire to be a big sister.

For the past few years every time Serena has stepped on the court at a grand slam there’s been a sense that it could be the end, but the hope that we’d get to keep watching her play forever. That, of course, wasn’t going to happen, but with an all-time great it’s hard to say goodbye — for them or for us — and the next few tournaments leading into her farewell at the U.S. Open will be emotional for everyone involved, a bittersweet celebration of the greatest tennis career any of us have ever seen.

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