Serena Williams has announced that her upcoming appearance at this month's US Open will be her last. She's one of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport, with a total of 23 Grand Slams wins, 14 major women's doubles titles, four Olympic gold medals and the holder of too many records to count.
Williams announced in a new article she penned for the latest issue of Vogue that she would be retiring from tennis following the annual competition to focus on her family. "Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family," Williams writes, explaining that her and husband Alexis Ohanian have a desire to grow their family and give their four-year-old daughter, Olympia, a younger sibling. "But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give."
Williams goes on to add, "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. I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out."
For Williams, the decision to step away from tennis is not an easy one. "There is no happiness in this topic for me," she says. "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."
She expresses, "I have never liked the word retirement,” but instead is optimistic about the transition, characterizing it as an "evolution" with Williams ready to pour more time into her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures.
Looking back on her long career, Williams takes comfort in all that she's achieved and had to overcome from her early days training with her older sister Venus in Compton, to making peace with the fact that she fell just short of Margaret Court's all- time record of 24 grand slam titles.
"I don’t particularly like to think about my legacy," she writes. "I get asked about it a lot, and I never know exactly what to say. But I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all."
Fresh off her first match win in over a year at the National Open in Toronto, the excitement over a fairytale sendoff at the US Open is immense, but Williams isn't necessarily holding her breath. "I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment," she says. "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."
Photo via Getty/Clive Brunskill
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