After a decades-long, historic run as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams is officially walking off the court for the last time. In a new essay penned for Vogue, the athlete announced her decision to begin “evolving” out of tennis – she thinks retirement is too heavy of a term – to focus on expanding her family and business ventures.
“There is no happiness in this topic for me,” she wrote. “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 revealed that she had mulled over the decision to step away from the sport for a while. But it was her daughter, Olympia, dropping not-so-subtle hints that she wants a baby sister that helped seal the deal. Because if anyone knows the power of sisterhood, it’s the Williams sisters.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete,” Williams added. “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” She admitted that she resented having to choose between having a family and having a career because it wasn’t something that her male athletic counterparts had to deal with, saying: “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.”
But when she looks at her legacy, she said she’s not as focused on the things she didn’t achieve, the records she came close to but didn’t break.
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there,” she wrote. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”
But Williams is going to try to show up for one last hurrah. While she “wasn’t ready” to win Wimbledon this year, she’s taking a shot at New York’s U.S. Open. And then she’ll be done, for real this time.
“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,” Williams said.
The iconic athlete, who went pro at age 14 in 1995, is a seven-time Australian Open women’s singles champion, a seven-time Wimbledon winner, and a six-time U.S. Open victor. She has also won the French Open three times.
“I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst,” she concluded. “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.”