For more than 20 years, Serena Williams has been the queen of the (tennis) court. With 23 Grand Slam singles trophies, more than 70 career singles titles, and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, among other trophies, medals and more, her reign has been nothing short of legendary. That’s why for generations of tennis fans and players, this morning’s news comes with a tinge of dejection. In a moving, personal essay for Vogue, Williams officially announced her retirement from tennis.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” the tennis great shares in her Vogue essay. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me.” Instead of accepting this next transition in her life as a retirement, Williams chooses to reclaim her narrative, opting for a different term and perspective. “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,” she writes.
Williams, who just yesterday won a straight-sets match at the National Bank Open in Toronto, details her desire to grow the family she started with husband Alexis Ohanian — the couple share 4-year-old daughter Olympia. She’s also heavily invested in her work with Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm she founded just a few years ago. Bearing these other facets of her life in mind, Williams knew she’d eventually have to take a permanent step away from the court. “I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis,” Williams admits.
Acknowledging that her time on the court is coming to a close hasn’t been easy for Williams. “It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud,” 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! 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,” Williams continues.
The beloved, decorated athlete admits that, for her, the idea of leaving tennis is not easy to accept — in fact, she’s not looking forward to it whatsoever. “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,” she writes.
At this, Williams looks forward to the weeks ahead. She’ll play a few lead-up tournaments before the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam of the year and the first major she won back in 1999. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst,” Williams confesses. In closing her essay, the athlete writes to her longtime fans and supporters, “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.”
Words cannot express how much we’ll miss her too.
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