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Serena Retiring

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Serena Williams has devoted much of her life to tennis.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion says she's ready to embrace life after tennis and will retire.

More: Serena Scores First Win of Season

In a new Vogue Magazine cover story, the 23-time Grand Slam champion says she will bid farewell to tennis in Flushing Meadows at this month's US Open.

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

"I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret [Court] 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. 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."

Rising from the public park courts of Compton, California into arguably the greatest female athlete in modern sport, Williams will leave a lasting legacy. Serena captured four Olympic gold medals, held the world No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles, completed two Serena Slams (2002-2003 and 2014-2015), captured 73 career titles and collected more than $94 million in prize money. She turned generations of fans onto tennis and influenced some of the sports young stars including Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff.

Serena said she and husband Alexis Ohanian plan to expand their family and confessed "I definitely don't want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out."

Fighting with her trademark ferocity, Williams stopped Spanish lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-3, 6-4 on Monday to score her first singles win in a year-and-a-half at the National Bank Open in Toronto.

Afterward, the 41-year-old superstar dropped a major retirement hint.

"I guess there's just a light at the end of the tunnel," Williams said with a smile. "I don't know, I'm guess closer to the light, so... "Yeah, so that's, like lately that's been it for me. I can't wait to get to that light."

Asked if she was joking, Williams replied: "I'm not joking."

The four-time Olympic gold-medal champion clarified "the light" she's referring to represents "freedom" of life after tennis.

"I love playing though, so it's like amazing," Serena told the media in Toronto. "But, you know, I can't do this forever.

"So it's just like sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can."

Williams' comments come as she graces the cover of Vogue Magazine bearing the headline "Serena's Farewell."

In the Vogue cover story, Serena says while she doesn't like using the word "retirement" she's ready to transition from tennis and expand her family. 

"I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me," Serena told Vogue. "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. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."

Former world No. 1 Serena and husband Alexis Ohanian have a daughter, Olympia, who will celebrate her fifth birthday on September 1st.

Parting can be painful and Williams says the thought of retirement is so emotional she's only really delved deep into the topic with her therapist.

"I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis," Serena told Vogue. "Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad.

"It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry. The only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist! One thing I’m not going to do is sugarcoat this. I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way."

Impending retirement is a bittersweet moment for Williams, who says a part of her wants to continue competing while at the same time she knows it's time to explore life beyond tennis.

"There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain," Williams said. "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."

"There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction," Serena posted on Instagram. "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."


A post shared by Vogue (@voguemagazine)

The US Open starts on August 29th.

Twenty-three years ago, a 17-year-old Serena defeated Lindsay Davenport and world No. 1 Martina Hingis in succession to capture her first career Grand Slam crown in New York.

Now, Serena seems ready to close the curtain on her iconic career at the US Open where she won her maiden major ending where it all began.

New York fans who have seen the evolution of one of the greatest female athletes in history will certainly embrace Serena in a massive group hug in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Wouldn't it be wondrous to see Venus and Serena play one last doubles major together.

Photo credit: Getty