Serena Williams ‘evolving away from tennis’ and set to retire after US Open

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Serena Williams has announced her upcoming retirement from tennis, saying that the “countdown has begun” on her illustrious career in the sport with the US Open later this month set to be her final tournament.

In an interview with Vogue, the 23-time grand slam champion and one of the greatest players in the history of tennis said: “I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. 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, who turns 41 in September, added on Instagram. “There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis. 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 gonna relish these next few weeks.”

The US Open, the final grand slam tournament of the year, begins on 29 August. “I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst,” she said. Williams also said the decision has been made reluctantly, adding: “It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads.”

In the first-person essay on Vogue, Williams said wanting to grow her family and have a second child has been one of the motivating factors behind her decision. The American gave birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017 and revealed her child wishes to have a sister. “This has felt like a moment I need to listen very carefully to,” Williams said. “Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family... But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.”

Williams will leave behind one of the greatest careers in all of sport. Raised in Compton, California alongside her older sister Venus and taught how to play by their father Richard, the Williams sisters broke through racial barriers and blazed a trail that has seen them both dominate tennis for the large part of the past 25 years.

Williams has won seven Wimbledon titles, seven Australian Opens, six US Opens and three French Opens, as well as four Olympic gold medals. She held the No 1 ranking for a total of 319 weeks and became the oldest world No 1 at the age of 35 in 2017, shortly after her last grand slam title at the Australian Open – a tournament she won while two months pregnant.

Williams departs Centre Court after her defeat to Harmony Tan at Wimbledon this year (Getty Images)
Williams departs Centre Court after her defeat to Harmony Tan at Wimbledon this year (Getty Images)

After childbirth, Williams reached four further grand slam finals including two at Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018. She stepped away from the sport for almost a year after tearing her hamstring in the first round of Wimbledon in 2021 but returned to the All England Club earlier this summer in a first-round defeat to Harmony Tan on Centre Court.

While Williams has not explicitly stated that the US Open will be her final tournament, she has entered a series of warm-up tournaments before the New York grand slam with the view of getting her ready to compete in Flushing Meadows. Williams won her first singles match in over a year last night in the opening round of the Canadian Open but dropped a clue that her retirement was imminent.

Williams is heavily involved in her venture capital firm Serena Ventures. At Wimbledon, Williams said Serena Ventures “felt more of my life” than tennis, and added: “When you do have a venture company, you do have to go all in. It definitely takes literally all my extra time. And it’s fun.”

Williams is one short of the all-time grand slam record held by Margaret Court and her 24 titles. “Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York,” she told Vogue. “But I’m going to try.”