Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis after a glittering career

Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all time and a 23-time grand slam singles champion, has announced her retirement from professional tennis, indicating that she may retire after the upcoming US Open.

In a column for Vogue, 40-year-old Williams described her intention to end her career as an “evolution” away from tennis. “I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote. “Perhaps the best word to describe what I do is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, towards other things that are important to me.”

Related: Grand slams, gold medals and footfalls: Serena Williams’ most notable moments

Williams has spent much of the past few years off the court preparing for the moment she decided to move on, including by creating a venture capitalist firm, Serena Ventures, and investing in various organizations. However, she explained that one of her biggest reasons for retirement is her intention to further expand her family. Williams gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia, in 2017.

“I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” Williams wrote. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife did the physical work of growing our family.”

In a storied career that has spanned nearly three decades since its inception on the public courts in Compton, California, Williams has won an Open Era record 23 grand slam singles titles, earning a total of $94,588,910 in prize money and more more in endorsements. Williams fell short of the all-time record of 24, a record of minor importance, set by Margaret Court.

Despite the various outside interests Williams has had since her youth, Williams has also consolidated one of the longest careers at the top level of the sport, behind only her 42-year-old sister, Venus. She has embarked on countless comebacks, including twice after suffering life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Williams turned professional at age 14 in 1995 and was a teenage phenom, winning her first grand slam title at age 17 at the 1999 US Open. Despite the mileage on her legs now, Williams contrasted her feelings with the seemingly happy retirees of the 26-year-old Ashleigh Barty in March and the 32-year-old Caroline Wozniacki, her close friend, in 2020.

“There is no happiness in this subject for me,” she wrote. “I know it’s not common to say, but I feel a lot of pain. It is the hardest thing I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep telling myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it isn’t. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for the next one.”

Unlike many other greats, Williams’ success was not just limited to singles. She and her sister, Venus, also formed one of the greatest doubles partnerships ever, winning 14 women’s grand slam titles despite playing a limited doubles program. She has also won four Olympic gold medals, three of them in doubles, and two mixed doubles grand slam titles in 1998.

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Their accomplishments are even more significant considering what they represent as the first African-American grand slam champions since Althea Gibson in 1958. They have both dominated a predominantly white, upper-class and prohibitively expensive sport. Williams’ serve, power and athleticism have driven her success, but so have her intelligence, problem-solving skills and mentality.

In her long, emotional essay in Vogue, Williams explained that after injuring her hamstring at Wimbledon last year and taking a year away from the sport, she was unsure if she would ever return. A discussion with the legendary golfer Tiger Woods brought her back to the driving range, which she enjoyed enough to start a full comeback. Williams regained her singles at Wimbledon in June, losing in the first round to France’s Harmony Tan.

This week, Williams competes at the National Bank Open in Toronto, where on Monday she defeated Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 to win her first singles match since June 2021. After Canada, she is scheduled to compete at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati , Ohio, followed by the US Open beginning in late August.

Despite explaining her reasons for moving on from the sport in striking depth, Williams did not explicitly say she will definitely retire at the US Open. However, the end point is clearly in sight. “Oh my god, I like tennis,” she wrote. “But now the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different but just exciting Serena. I’m going to enjoy the next few weeks.”

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