Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion and one of the most iconic figures in modern sports, is planning her retirement.
In her Vogue cover story Tuesday, Williams announced that she is planning to step away from tennis after participating in the U.S. Open in New York later this summer. Though she doesn’t call it a “retirement” from tennis, she is moving on to focus on her family and other business ventures.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote for Vogue. “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.”Williams’ last Grand Slam victory came at the Australia Open in 2017, where she was two months pregnant with her daughter Olympia. She says she’s been trying to have another baby with her husband Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit.
“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,” she wrote. “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 won her first U.S. Open in 1999 at just 17 years old. Since then, she’s won the most Grand Slam singles titles during the Open Era, and she’s the highest-earning woman athlete of all time. With her sister Venus Williams, the pair have won 14 women’s doubles titles. She’s won four Olympic gold medals, including three doubles with her sister — an all-time joint record.
Last year’s Oscar-nominated film “King Richard” showed the early days of Serena and Venus Williams, who served as executive producers and were played by Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney. The movie picked up six nominations, including a best picture nod and a best actor win for Will Smith, who portrayed patriarch and coach Richard Williams.
“If you watched ‘King Richard,’ then you know that when I was little, I was not very good at tennis,” Serena Williams wrote. “I was so sad when I didn’t get all the early opportunities that Venus got, but that helped me. It made me work harder, turning me into a savage fighter. I’d travel to tournaments with Venus as her hitting partner, and if there was an open slot, I’d play. I followed her around the world and watched her.
When she lost, I understood why, and I made sure I wouldn’t lose the same way. That’s how I started to move so fast up the rankings, because I learned the lessons from Venus’s losses instead of the hard way, from my own. It was as if I were playing her matches, too. I’m a good mimic.”