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On Tuesday, Williams, 40 wrote in a first-person essay for Vogue that she plans to step away from her nearly 27-years-long professional tennis career after the upcoming U.S. Open, her next and possibly final chance to capture her 24th Grand Slam victory and tie Margaret Court's record.
When Williams recently felt "the itch to get back on the court" for the first time since she injured her leg at Wimbledon in 2021, she went to none other than 46-year-old Woods, who rose to prominence in professional golf around the same time Williams soared through the tennis world.
"I said, 'I don't know what to do: I think I'm over it, but maybe I'm not over [tennis],' " Williams wrote in Vogue. "He's Tiger, and he was adamant that I be a beast the same way he is! He said, 'Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don't have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens.' I said, 'All right, I think I can do that.' "
Williams wrote that she waited one month before taking Woods' advice and returning to the court, saying that it "felt magical to pick up a racket again."
"I was good. I was really good," Williams wrote of her comeback in Vogue. "I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that. As I've said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me."
In June, the mom to 4-year-old Olympia lost a tough comeback match at Wimbledon to Harmony Tan, and she acknowledged that she "wasn't ready to win Wimbledon this year," in her Vogue piece.
"And I don't know if I will be ready to win New York," she continued. "But I'm going to try."
As she prepares for the final Grand Slam tournament of the season, Williams did notch a singles match victory for the first time in over a year when she beat Spain's Nuria Párrizas Díaz at the Canadian Open Monday, a good sign just a few weeks before the U.S. Open starts at the end of the month.
"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!' " Williams wrote of her impending retirement in Vogue. "... 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."
As Williams approaches her final professional tennis matches, Woods, too, faces uncertainty about his career. The golf legend, whose 15 major championships stand second only to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18, missed the cut at the British Open in July, leading to an emotional moment as he left Scotland's Old Course at St. Andrews.
In Vogue, 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.
Williams will play at the U.S. Open in New York City, which begins Aug. 29 and runs through Sept. 11.