Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has left the world stunned after announcing she will be “evolving away” from the sport.
In her own words, the 23-time Grand Slam champion revealed in an emotional feature for Vogue that the time has come to address the elephant in the room.
Retirement — although Williams dislikes using that term — is something that has been on her mind for a while.
The former world number one stressed she wants to be “sensitive” about this topic and has described it as “a transition” in her life.
“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,” she wrote. “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.”
In the tear-jerking feature, Williams reveals she had something of a penny-drop moment when considering her future with tennis. It was her daughter Olympia who gave her the clarity she was seeking.
“This morning, my daughter, Olympia, who turns five this month, and I were on our way to get her a new passport before a trip to Europe,” Williams began.
“We’re in my car, and she’s holding my phone, using an interactive educational app she likes. This robot voice asks her a question: What do you want to be when you grow up? She doesn’t know I’m listening, but I can hear the answer she whispers into the phone. She says, ‘I want to be a big sister.’
“Olympia says this a lot, even when she knows I’m listening. Sometimes before bed, she prays to Jehovah to bring her a baby sister.
“I’m the youngest of five sisters myself, and my sisters are my heroes, so this has felt like a moment I need to listen very carefully to.”
Williams gave birth to Olympia, her first child with husband Alexis Ohanian, in September 2017.
She was two months pregnant when she won the 2017 Australian Open — her 23rd Grand Slam title. While she made playing at the highest level of tennis while carrying a baby look effortless, it’s not something the legendary athlete feels can be replicated.
“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.”
While this may have been an announcement many were expecting at some point, it doesn’t take away from the fact one of tennis’s most cherished and decorated players is preparing to hang up her racquet.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis,” Williams continued. “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.
“Ashleigh Barty was number one 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.”