Serena Williams, 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, is “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she writes in an essay for Vogue. She’s not into the word “retire,” but that’s what’s happening. Williams is nearly 41, and she wants to have a second child with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and give her daughter Olivia a big sister.
In the sports world, it has been assumed over the last five years that she would retire soon, according to Yahoo! Sports. The U.S. Open on August 29 will be her last tournament.
But it’s complicated. The essay is about the inevitability of motherhood forcing women to make hard life decisions, as well as clashing with her drive and ambition in tennis, which she isn’t completely over. It’s a bittersweet ending for Williams.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” she writes. “I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family.”
In fact, even talking about leaving tennis is something she can barely bring herself to do with her husband or family. “It’s like a taboo topic,” she writes. “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!”
Regrets? She has a few.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do… The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams.”
Further ratcheting up the tension, Venus will have the chance to tie Margaret Court’s record at her final outing, the upcoming U.S. Open.
And what’s it like to parent when your own father had a movie made about him named King Richard?
“I got pushed hard by my parents,” Williams wrote. “I do want to push Olympia—not in tennis, but in whatever captures her interest. But I don’t want to push too hard. I’m still trying to figure out that balance.”
Williams is also “evolving” more toward Serena Ventures, her venture capital firm. Williams says she “fell in love” with investing nine years ago.
But she really, truly is retiring, saying her doctor recently told her husband Alexis that “whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family.”
Williams first came to the national tennis stage when she was 17, winning the first of her 23 Grand Glam singles titles at the 1999 U.S. Open. Since then she’s also tied Steffi Graf’s record of 186 consecutive weeks ranked singles world No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association, and has spent a total of 319 weeks at the top spot, finishing as the year end’s No. 1 five times.
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