One of the most prominent American athletes is ready to retire. Tennis legend Serena Williams announced her retirement plans Tuesday in a first-person essay in the latest issue of Vogue. Williams does plan to play in the 2022 US Open, which starts later this month.
“It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine,” the tennis star told Vogue. “I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
In an Instagram post promoting the Vogue piece on Tuesday morning, Williams wrote “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks,” insinuating that the US Open — which begins on Aug. 29 — will be her last tournament.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” Williams told Vogue. “And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York [the US Open]. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.”
The tennis legend said a major part of the decision to wind down her career now is that she wants to have another child.
“If I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter,” she said.
Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, have a five-year-old daughter, Olympia, together and plan on growing their family soon.
“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,” Williams said. “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, 40, changed the sport of tennis when she broke onto the professional scene in 1995 as a 14-year-old. Since then, she has won the Australian Open seven times, Wimbledon seven times, the US Open six times and the French Open three times. Altogether, she has 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, the most by any player in the Open Era.
The only person with more Grand Slam titles is Margaret Court (24), a mark Williams has been attempting to tie ever since she won the 2017 Australian Open. Williams shared her thoughts on not being able to break Court’s record:
“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. 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.”
Overall in her career, Williams won 73 singles titles, 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles with her sister Venus Williams and four Olympic Gold Medals.
“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” Williams said. “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.”
During her career, Williams was at the top of the Women’s Tennis Association rankings for a joint-record 186 consecutive weeks, and finished as the year-end No. 1 five times.