Is Serena Williams retiring? Tennis legend says 'the countdown has begun' ahead of expected US Open farewell

One of the greatest tennis players of all time appears to have one more Grand Slam tournament left. And then it is likely she will be ending her career.

Serena Williams revealed in a first-person story in Vogue that she is nearing the end of her career, with all signs pointing toward the US Open, which is slated to begin on Aug. 29, being the final tournament of her career.

"I don't want it to be over, but at the same time I'm ready for what's next," Williams wrote. "I don't know how I'm going to be able to look at this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis."

Williams' 23 Grand Slam titles are the most of any tennis player — men or women — in the Open Era, and the second-most all-time behind only the 24 won by Margaret Court.

MORE: Latest updates on Serena Williams at the National Bank Open

Is Serena Williams retiring?

Williams has not officially said the US Open will be her final tournament, but it is clear the end is near. And as the last Grand Slam until 2023, the US Open would certainly appear to be the end for her.

The biggest driver behind Williams' decision to retire is, as she wrote, her family. She explained she's never liked the word "retirement," and considers her decision to be an "evolution," moving away from tennis and toward the next phase of her life.

"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 wrote.

Williams said she considers retirement to be a sensitive and taboo topic, one that her and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, rarely discuss. She said while some tennis players can find happiness in the decision to walk away from the sport, "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 wrote. "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."

Williams discussed how her competitiveness has driven her in her career, and what it was like to continue winning and moving up the all-time Grand Slam singles charts.

She said there are people who won't consider her the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) because she didn't pass Court's record.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.

Williams explained how she has felt her life begin to move toward life with her family and her company. She wrote about what being there for her daughter, Olympia, has meant, and how she wants to be a constant presence in her life. She wrote about her company, Serena Ventures, and how she has learned the process of running a venture capital firm.

And she discussed how she and Ohanian recently learned they can have another child, and how she does not want to be a pregnant as an athlete again.

"I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out," Williams wrote.

All-time women's Grand Slam singles titles
Margaret Court24
Serena Williams23
Steffi Graf22
Helen Wills Moody19
Chris Everett18
Martina Navratilova18
Billie Jean King12

This past spring, Williams said she spoke with golfer Tiger Woods about whether to continue her tennis career, and he advised her to play for the next two weeks and see how she felt. She described the experience as "magical to pick up a racket again," and said she went "back and forth" over whether to play in both Wimbledon and the US Open.

She said she doesn't like to think about her legacy, but she said she hopes people will think of her as more than just tennis.

"I admire Billie Jean [King] because she transcended her sport. I’d like it to be: Serena is this and she’s that and she was a great tennis player and she won those slams," Williams wrote.

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. 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. 

How old is Serena Williams?

Williams will turn 41 on Sept. 26, and she explained her age is a driving factor in the decision. While she never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family, she said "something's got to give" as she wants to grow the family.

"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. Maybe I'd be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity," Williams wrote. "Don't get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia."

Author(s)
Edward Sutelan is a content producer at The Sporting News.
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