Serena Williams, 23-time major champion and all-time sporting great, has announced her retirement from tennis, and hinted that her final appearance could be as soon as the upcoming US Open.
Williams, 40, has finally called time on her career, admitting the decision was driven by her desire to grow her family. "These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter," she said.
On Monday night, after winning her first singles match in over a year, Williams had hinted that the end of her career was near but finally confirmed the news on Tuesday.
She plans for this month's US Open to be her final tournament and, in a revealing op-ed in September's Vogue, Williams said that she felt a "great deal of pain" to make the ultimate choice. Rather than a retirement, she dubbed it as her "evolution" away from tennis.
“It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry," she wrote. “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.”
Williams is widely considered one of the greatest champions in tennis after more than two decades of dominance in the sport. Since winning her first major at the 1999 US Open, Williams has amassed 23 Grand Slam singles titles - a record in the Open era - as well as four Olympic gold medals across singles and doubles. She won 14 doubles titles with sister Venus - never losing a final together - and won two mixed doubles titles too. In total she won $94,588,910 in prize money.
Since returning from giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017, Williams has featured in four major finals but remains one trophy short of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24, set before the Open Era. Williams addressed that final hurdle in her announcement, saying "I would be lying if I said I didn’t want that record".
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the “open era” that began in 1968," she said. "I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. 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. 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."
She also acknowledged how, if she were a male sporting great like NFL stalwart Tom Brady, she maybe would not need to consider retirement at all. “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.”
In the last few years Williams has spent more time off court than on it, and focused her attention on her venture capital firm Serena Ventures to great success. A hamstring injury kept her sidelined for most of the past year, but she revealed that Tiger Woods had helped convince her to give this season another try.
Though she was knocked out of Wimbledon last month in a dramatic first-round marathon against Harmony Tan, she is working towards what will in all likelihood be her final Grand Slam foray at the US Open later this month.
She is currently playing at the Canadian Open in Toronto, and got through to the second round after recording a win over world No 57 Nuria Párrizas Díaz 6-3, 6-4.