Serena Williams has seemingly confirmed her upcoming retirement from tennis.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion said after her first-round win at the Canadian Open – her first singles victory in 14 months – that she sees a “light at the end of the tunnel”.
In an interview with Vogue released hours after the match she has revealed that as she turns 41 in September “something’s got to give” and she is hoping to have another child.
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“I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote.
“It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. 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. But I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis.
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“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!
Serena sees 'light at the end of the tunnel' as career nears end
“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. Ashleigh Barty was No. 1 in the world when she left the sport this March, and I believe she really felt ready to move on. Caroline Wozniacki, who is one of my best friends, felt a sense of relief when she retired in 2020.
“Praise to these people, but I’m going to be honest. 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. 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.”
Williams is scheduled to play this week and next at the Western & Southern Open before the US Open, which starts on August 29.
Although she hasn’t officially confirmed when she will retire from tennis, it sounds like New York will be the final stop on a legendary career that started in 1995.
“These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.
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“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.
“This spring, I had the itch to get back on the court for the first time in seven months. I was talking to Tiger Woods, who is a friend, and I told him I needed his advice on my tennis career.
“I said, 'I don’t know what to do: I think I’m over it, but maybe I’m not over it'. 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, 'Alright, I think I can do that'. And I didn’t do it.
“But a month later, I gave it a try. And it felt magical to pick up a racket again. And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the US Open after that. As I’ve said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me.”
If the US Open is Williams’ final Grand Slam it will be her last chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major victories.
Williams has been chasing a 24th major since winning the Australian Open when she was pregnant in 2017.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year, and I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try,” she added.
“And the lead-up tournaments will be fun. 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!' 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.”
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