Cameron Spencer/Getty Serena Williams
After over two decades, Serena Williams is starting to walk away from professional tennis.
Williams will try to win a history-making 24th Grand Slam victory at the U.S. Open at the end of the month before beginning an "evolution" away from tennis, the 40-year-old announced on the Sept. 2022 cover of Vogue Tuesday.
"I have never liked the word retirement," Williams writes in a first-person essay for the magazine. "It doesn't feel like a modern word to me. I've been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. 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."
Williams said that she has been "reluctant to admit" to herself or the people around her that "I have to move on from playing tennis." But the mom to 4-year-old Olympia and founder of investment firm Serena Ventures said that she wants to refocus her attention elsewhere, and she and husband Alexis Ohanian want to have another child.
Serena Williams at Wimbledon 2022
Unlike many of the people she's played against, Williams said, she's not excited at the prospect of retiring.
"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."
The news comes after she had a difficult first-round exit at Wimbledon this year — her return to competitive tennis for the first time since the 2021 event, when she slipped on the court and suffered a right leg injury, forcing her to withdraw.
Williams then notably missed the 2021 US Open. In December 2021, she revealed she would not be participating in January's 2022 Australian Open on the advice of her medical team.
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The iconic athlete, who went pro at age 14 in 1995 after being trained by her father, Richard Williams, in their Compton, California neighborhood, is a seven-time Australian Open women's singles champion, a seven-time Wimbledon winner, a six-time U.S. Open victor, and has won the French Open three times.
An Olympian, Williams was also a frequent doubles champion alongside her older sister Venus Williams.
Williams had previously mostly dismissed retirement talk. Back in 2019, when asked about the topic, the athlete joked she'd "transfer out, you know, in 20 years, not anytime soon."