Serena Williams plans to retire from tennis, the 23-time Grand Slam champion announced Tuesday in a Vogue cover story.
Her retirement from the sport likely will come after the upcoming US Open, she implied in the as-told-to story written as the star’s farewell to tennis. Williams won her first major singles title at the US Open in 1999, and 23 years later, she sits one title behind Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” she told Vogue. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me… 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, 40, and her husband Alexis Ohanian have a 4-year-old daughter, Olympia, and plan to have another child. Williams’ most recent major title came at the Australian Open in 2017, while she was two months pregnant with Olympia.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete,” she said. “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
Still, Williams acknowledged the unfairness of having to choose between having a family and having her tennis career.
“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,” she said. “Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity.”
Citing the recent retirements of Ash Barty and Caroline Wozniacki, both of whom expressed a readiness to move on from the sport, Williams told Vogue she feels little relief in knowing that she’ll be stepping away from the game.
“Praise to these people, but I’m going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me,” she said. “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.”
Williams is competing in the Canadian Open this week in preparation for the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29. She will also play in the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati starting Aug. 13.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York,” Williams said. “But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.
“I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’ I get that. It’s a good fantasy. But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. 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.”