Serena Williams announces she is ‘evolving away from tennis’

·5-min read
Serena Williams announces she is ‘evolving away from tennis’

Serena Williams has announced her imminent retirement from tennis.

The 23-time grand-slam champion won her first singles match for more than a year at the National Bank Open in Toronto on Monday evening but has revealed in a first-person piece for Vogue that she has decided to end her career.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she wrote.

Williams has committed to playing at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week as well as the US Open later this month, and it appears that will be her final tournament.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” said the 40-year-old.

“And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.

“I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret (Court on 24 slam singles titles) that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’

“I get that. It’s a good fantasy. But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst.”

Williams revealed her motivation behind calling it quits is the desire to have a second child, and that she was trying for another baby during her absence from tennis for a year until Wimbledon this summer.

She returned to the sport early in 2018 following the birth of daughter Olympia the previous year having been pregnant when she won her last slam title at the Australian Open.

“I’m turning 41 (in September), and something’s got to give,” she wrote in Vogue.

“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that, whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family.

Serena Williams waves goodbye to Centre Court at Wimbledon
Serena Williams waves goodbye to Centre Court at Wimbledon (John Walton/PA)

“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”

Williams admitted the decision to leave tennis is a painful one, saying: “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.

“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.”

Winning her 23rd slam singles title in Australia in 2017 left Williams tantalisingly close to Court’s all-time record of 24 and she reached four more finals on her return from maternity leave, two at Wimbledon and two at the US Open, but was beaten on each occasion.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record,” said Williams, who won her first major title back in 1999 at the US Open as a 17-year-old.

“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. But, these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I choose the latter.”

As well as her desire to have another baby, Williams also wrote about the importance of her growing role as a businesswoman, particularly with her investment company, Serena Ventures.

“Men are writing those big cheques to one another and, in order for us to change that, more people who look like me need to be in that position, giving money back to themselves,” she said.

Williams hinted at Tuesday’s news following her 6-3 6-4 victory over Nuria Parrizas Diaz in Toronto – her first singles victory since last year’s French Open – saying: “I guess there’s just a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m getting closer to the light.”

She will take on either 12th seed Belinda Bencic or Czech Tereza Martincova in the second round on Wednesday.